Nurses' role key in identifying undiagnosed COPD

Primary care nurses are to form a key part of plans to identify over two million people with undiagnosed COPD, the DoH has announced.

Nurse will help diagnose COPD (Photograph: SPL)
Nurse will help diagnose COPD (Photograph: SPL)

The government's draft COPD strategy for England, which was launched last week and includes recommendations on asthma care, focuses on improving early identification and self-management.

The strategy acknowledges the central role that nurses play in the assessment and management of COPD and asthma patients. In addition, the financial analyses supporting it include costings based around the time practice and district nurses spend with patients.

The government estimates that around 3 million people have COPD, but less than one million have been diagnosed.

The strategy suggests that large groups of patients should be assessed for COPD, including ex-smokers, patients with previous pulmonary TB and first-degree relatives of those with COPD. Specific targeting will lead to an earlier diagnosis of those with mild to moderate COPD, the DoH believes.

However new funding will not be made available. Instead, PCTs will be expected to ‘re-prioritise' resources and make efficiency savings.

Monica Fletcher, chief executive of the charity Education for Health, said the strategy was ‘fantastic' news for nurses.

Education for Health provides practical training in COPD and asthma care to around 4,500 primary care nurses each year.

‘Nurses are already widely involved in the care of COPD and asthma patients,' she said.

Nurses play an important role in many of the aspects of care identified in the report, including the importance of ongoing management and of spirometry-based diagnosis.

‘They are also in an ideal position to pick up patients who are currently undiagnosed,' she said.

Patients could be assessed at annual checks for other conditions or after vascular checks and offered advice about lung health, she said.

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