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Lack of pulmonary rehab a 'serious problem'

By Nigel Praities

A fifth of PCTs are failing to follow NICE guidelines by providing pulmonary rehabilitation services for patients with COPD, a Pulse investigation reveals.

The findings come more than four years after NICE guidelines recommended pulmonary rehabilitation was offered for all suitable patients. They are to be presented to the panel developing the upcoming National Service Framework for COPD.

Of 61 PCTs surveyed, 80% offered pulmonary rehabilitation services in hospital or in the community. Of those offering a service, 67% said they followed NICE criteria for GP referral.

Average waiting time was over 12 weeks, and as much as 12 months in some areas.

NICE recommends all patients who consider themselves functionally disabled by COPD, usually those MRC grade 3 and above, are given access to pulmonary rehabilitation.

Dr Rupert Jones, a GP in Plymouth, Devon, and chair of the diagnostics group of the COPD NSF, said it was a ‘serious problem' that some PCTs were not offering the service. He said he would be bringing up the data at the next meeting of the NSF diagnostics group this week. ‘PCTs are letting patients down in a big way. Pulmonary rehab is evidence-based, recommended by NICE and in every international guideline.

‘We also know it has a profound impact on quality of life and exercise capacity reduces the work of hospital consultants and GPs,' he said.

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