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Weather alerts aid in COPD

MET office weather alerts can bring significant benefits for COPD patients and help practices hit QOF targets, new research suggests.

The study, to be presented to the May meeting of the American Thoracic Society, found warning patients of weather that can cause exacerbations helped them protect themselves from illness and improved their level of care.

Study researcher Clare Bryden, health research manager at the Met Office, told Pulse forecasting was helping to

keep COPD patients out of

hospital.

'Individual patients who used to be admitted now aren't admitted. There are quite substantial cost savings to be made,' she said.

'We're already providing forecasting to eight strategic health authorities. We are collecting information on the best way of rolling it out to more PCTs.'

Under the system, alerts are faxed to practices, and staff contact patients on COPD registers.

The audit at a practice in Croydon, south London ­ part of a wider trial of the forecasts ­ found a 45 per cent increase in the number of patients whose homes were at the correct indoor temperature.

The proportion with reserves of antibiotics and steroids in case of illness also rose, by 43 per cent.

A number of areas carrying QOF points showed significant improvement.

The proportion of patients who were assessed by spirometry rose 25 per cent, those understanding inhaler use rose 16 per cent and flu vaccination went up 9 per cent.

Dr Mark Levy, a pioneer of the use of weather forecasts and clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: 'It's common sense that if you make sure people are warm and they have access and medication they should be able to deal with exacerbations.

'We still have to assess the system to see who benefits.'

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