GPs leading COPD audit hope for NHS savings

A planned audit of COPD care could reduce expensive hospital admissions and help GPs improve prescribing habits, according to GPs leading the programme.

Spirometry: the National COPD Audit Programme will assess how the NHS performs on lung disease care (picture: Jim Varney)

The new National COPD Audit Programme announced on Friday will assess how different parts of the NHS in England and Wales perform on lung disease care and identify where services can improve.

Plymouth GP Dr Rupert Jones, primary care lead for the programme, told GP that practices will be sent audit data so they can benchmark performance against neighbouring surgeries to ensure they are providing good quality care.

Avoiding exacerbations by providing appropriate treatments and referring to pulmonary rehabilitation services could also cut NHS spend on hospital admissions, he said.

Dr Jones said: 'It will help to understand variations in care. Most GPs quite like to see how they are performing, and if they've not done so well, they can do something about it.'

He added: 'If we can keep COPD admissions down, we might be able to save money. In primary care we are in a good position to put in place optimal treatment to reduce the chances of being admitted.'

But he warned GPs to examine prescribing behaviour after reports of 'substantial variations' in prescribing rates between areas of England. 'A lot of inhaled steroids are prescribed when [the patients] don’t need them,' he said. 'Long-acting bronchodilators are prescribed when they won't help, and are expensive. There's a long way to go in that.'

Somerset GP Dr Steve Holmes, education lead for the Primary Care Respiratory Society, which will jointly lead clinical aspects of the audit, said: 'I am sure that the vast majority of practices in the UK will always look to improve the care they provide. Looking at the care we provide to our patients in a confidential way and trying to improve it is fundamental to the reason why most of us are passionate about the NHS and general practice.'

He added: 'If we can learn from ourselves and others to improve I think the majority of practices will be delighted that expert primary care clinicians will be linking with our specialist colleagues and patient organisations to look at care across all areas in the NHS and will look forward to the reporting.'

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