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UK one of worst in Europe for sharing spirometry data

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Poor data sharing in the NHS is making it more difficult for nurses to treat patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a major international study.

The first ever Europe wide audit of care for patients with the long term condition found wide variation in how care was provided. Researchers for the European Respiratory Society collected data on more than 16,000 cases from 422 hospitals in 13 countries.

They found that while spirometry testing was available in almost all hospitals in the study, clinicians often did not have access to previous test results when a patient was admitted – making it difficult to judge the severity of the condition and prescribe appropriately.

On average, previous tests results were available in 60% of cases. But this was less than 50% in the UK and only hospitals in Greece reported worse performance. Belgium and Romania were the best at 90% and 84%, respectively.

In addition, the researchers found only 22% of UK hospitals had a respiratory physician on call every day of the year, compared to 100% in Belgium, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey.

Jane Scullion, respiratory nurse consultant at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, told Nursing Times it was not surprising the UK had performed so poorly on data access. She said this was due to the current lack of an “interface” between primary and secondary care patient records.

Ms Scullion added that there was “growing awareness” of the lack of availability of respiratory physicians out of hours, including at the Department of Health. “If you’re admitted with COPD you can end up anywhere in the hospital and that’s just not acceptable. The evidence shows that patients do better if they’re under their own speciality,” she said.

The study also found Romanian hospitals had an average of 30 respiratory nurse specialists compared to an average of two across Europe as a whole. UK hospitals were slightly better than average with three.

However, the study authors said the definition of a specialist nurse varied between countries and recommended the role should be “harmonised” across Europe to include prescribing and clinical outpatient management.

The UK was also more than twice as likely to offer patients early supported discharge as the European average. Such schemes were available in three quarters of UK hospitals.


Average number of specialist nurses per hospital 
Country Nurses
Romania  30
Croatia       9
Turkey           5
UK 3
Greece 3
Belgium                                       3
Ireland                                        2
Slovakia     2
Spain   1
Switzerland                                                 0
Austria                                        0
Malta   0
Poland     0



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