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Oxygen - the stuff of life

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VOL: 98, ISSUE: 40, PAGE NO: 47

Liz Walker, RGN, BSc

It is a long time since many of us did our nurse training, and perhaps it is some time since we really thought about oxygen administration. For others it may be something that they learnt about more recently but never fully understood why and how oxygen is administered. Whatever the reason, it is good to go back to the basics.

It is a long time since many of us did our nurse training, and perhaps it is some time since we really thought about oxygen administration. For others it may be something that they learnt about more recently but never fully understood why and how oxygen is administered. Whatever the reason, it is good to go back to the basics.

In this issue of NTplus we explore oxygen therapy in hospitals. This is an essential topic to revisit, as oxygen therapy, a basic need for a lot of acutely ill patients, is notoriously badly administered, from prescription through to ensuring the comfort of the patient.

Portable oxygen in the community can also be a vital part of a patients plan of care (page 50), yet portable oxygen is an issue that frustrates both patients and nurses. While patients may have access to an oxygen concentrator in their homes the only form of prescribed portable oxygen is a PD cylinder that is heavy and difficult to handle. This obviously restricts the work and social life of many patients and the lifestyle of the family.

During a recent visit to the USA I was impressed at the range of ambulatory devices available, including lightweight systems using liquid oxygen and oxygen-conserving devices. However, these are very expensive and at the moment not available on prescription in the UK.

Some areas of the country are lucky enough to have PCTs who are prepared to fund a portable oxygen service, but these areas, I suspect, are the exception and not the rule.

Patients with lung disease requiring oxygen are restricted enough, often having very little confidence in themselves, and need as much help as possible to achieve some quality to their lives. They deserve access to a wider choice of portable oxygen systems that are tailored to meet individual lifestyles.

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