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Experts warn investment needed in next generation of respiratory nurses

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More money must be injected into developing the next generation of respiratory nurses to replace those preparing for retirement, according to experts who warned of a looming workforce “crisis”.

The recommendation is set out in a new five-year plan for the future of lung care created by a taskforce of 29 organisations including the Royal College of Nursing.

”We must do more to encourage nurses to work in this vital area”

Wendy Preston

“We need more nurses to help deliver better care for patients with lung disease,” the authors of the plan said.

“They are involved in all aspects of care, from helping smokers to quit and giving flu jabs to supporting people at the end of their lives.”

However, they added that there was a “serious crisis in staffing levels on the horizon”.

Research obtained by the RCN shows half of all respiratory nurse specialists are set to retire within the next eight years.

The Taskforce for Lung Health members said in the report that the outlook was made “more difficult” by the removal of bursaries for student nurses.

They also expressed “concern” about cuts to budgets for career development programmes. 

They called for more cash to be invested into nurse education and training. 

“We want NHS England and the government to think again about funding, to make sure more people are able to choose nursing as their career,” the report authors said.

“We also want more money made available for career development to help nurses fulfil their potential to the benefit of patients,” they added.

The taskforce found that one in five people in the UK are living with lung disease but said lung health had not been considered a priority until now.

“We need more nurses to help deliver better care for patients with lung disease”


The group highlighted that there had been no improvement in outcomes for people with lung disease in the UK for more than 10 years.

While deaths from heart disease have dropped 35% since 2004, mortality from lung disease has reduced by just 9% over the same period, according to the report.

The members warned: “While other countries have made significant progress, the UK has been left behind, and so have people with lung disease and their families.”

Responding to the findings, Wendy Preston, head of nursing practice at the RCN and chair of Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, said: “Nurses, especially specialist respiratory nurses, play a key role lead in the treatment and care of patients with lung disease.

“We must do more to encourage nurses to work in this vital area, and increase the overall supply of nurses, as research shows half of all respiratory nurse specialists will retire within the next eight years,” she said. 

Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists

Charity calls for end to ‘systemic neglect’ of lung disease

Wendy Preston

Ms Preston added that as a member of the taskforce the RCN was backing calls for a review of the funding mechanisms for training and continuing professional development programmes for nurses.

The taskforce noted that for the first time ever, respiratory, along with cardiovascular disease, was due to be an official priority in NHS England’s long-term plan, due to be published this month. Members said the inclusion was “long overdue” and “extremely welcome”.

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