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Home oxygen services criticised

By Nigel Praities

Home oxygen services are expensive and were shoddily implemented, says a highly critical post-mortem of the introduction of private provision from the Wales Audit Office.

The report says the introduction of the new home oxygen service in 2006 was ‘delayed and confused' in Wales, with GPs unable to use the new order forms and the new private service proving 'wholly inadequate' to meet demand.

The report praised the quick reaction of the Welsh Assembly Government's Department of Health to the crisis – by temporarily using community pharmacists to continue their previous service - but said the cost of the current service is almost treble that estimated by the Government, at £6m, and will rise to £8.2m next year.

Official Government figures show a similar situation in England, with PCT costs for providing home oxygen services spiralling by more than 80% since February 2006.

‘The NHS was not sufficiently prepared for the introduction of the new home oxygen contract … [and] the intended benefits of the new arrangements for home oxygen services and associated specialist clinical assessment have not been realised,' concludes the report from WAO.

Dr Dermot Ryan, a member of the General Practice Airways Group and a GP in Loughborough, Leicestershire said the report reflected the situation in the whole country. He said demand for home oxygen supplies had not gone up but costs were rising and problems with supply were continuing.

‘This wastes GP time and distresses patients - I have been at a patient's house at 6 am in the morning trying to sort out their home oxygen supply that has run out.

‘This is typical of a Government which is absolutely incapable of running anything where it comes to health,' he said.

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