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Nurses have a vital role in developing services

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The National Service Framework for COPD is due to be published at the end of 2008. This is an important landmark in the management of patients with respiratory disease. It is also a triumph for nurses, doctors and charities, such as the British Lung Foundation, who have been campaigning for lung disease to be recognised alongside heart disease and other chronic conditions.

In the past, policymakers have failed to address the needs of patients with respiratory disease and there is an urgent need to improve services (British Thoracic Society, 2006). It costs the NHS £6.6bn per year and over a million bed days are taken up annually by patients with COPD in England (BTS, 2006). More people die of respiratory disease than from ischaemic heart disease (BTS, 2006).

Despite the poor national profile of respiratory disease, many nurses within the specialty have been striving to raise awareness of the problem, change practice and improve the care of patients.

The 2007 NT Awards celebrated the work of Liz Darlison, consultant nurse at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, who won the Cancer Nurse Leader of the Year category. Liz set
up the UK’s first nurse consultant post in mesothelioma and went on to establish Mesothelioma UK, a national resource centre aimed at supporting patients, their families, health workers and associated organisations.

Respiratory nurses from North East Lincolnshire PCT were awarded joint winners in NICE’s 2007 Shared Learning Award. They developed a buddy scheme that used specially trained patient volunteers, who had attended a COPD rehabilitation programme, to work closely with new patients on the scheme (see Update).

Interstitial lung disease nurse specialists across the country have been working together to highlight the poor services for patients with this disabling condition and are planning in 2008 to organise training and education for health professionals.

Respiratory nurses have demonstrated they have a pivotal role in developing services and championing their patients’ needs. Vital in providing education and training for health workers and managing those with chronic and terminal lung disease, their role will become more important as they take on the challenge of the NSF – let’s hope the necessary resources are available to support them.

Eileen Shepherd, DipN, RGN, is editor of Respiratory Journal.

British Thoracic Society (2006) The Burden of Lung Disease. London: BTS.

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