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Audit highlights more specialist respiratory physiotherapists needed for patients with COPD

CSP press release published on 19 November 2014

Responding to a new audit entitled `COPD: Who Cares?’ which is published by the Royal College of Physicians today, Professor Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said:

“COPD is the fifth biggest killer in the UK (3) and today’s audit highlights that while standards of care for patients with COPD have improved generally, patients still need better access to specialist respiratory physiotherapists when they are admitted into hospital, and this support needs to be made available 7 days a week.   

“Specialist respiratory physiotherapists play a vital role in helping patients to recover from an exacerbation, prevent breathlessness and avoid further re-admissions.  They can also support patients in managing their condition longer term and help with smoking cessation which is a major cause of COPD. However, with recent cuts to specialist posts, this audit suggests that there are simply not enough respiratory physiotherapists available to ensure that all patients receive the support that’s needed.

“Patients need to be confident that they will be treated by a specialist respiratory physiotherapist irrespective of the day of the week when they arrive in hospital.

“COPD is the second largest cause of emergency admissions in the UK (4) so it is essential that commissioners adopt today’s recommendation to ensure that multi-disciplinary teams are available to support patients suffering with COPD.

“Proper support on discharge from hospital is also critical in keeping people well and out of hospital. A study in 2010 found that pulmonary rehabilitation delivered after an exacerbation or flare up, showed a reduction in re-admissions of twenty-six per cent (5) The CSP strongly supports the audit’s recommendation for pulmonary rehabilitation services to be provided within four weeks of referral.”

Chartered Physiotherapist Catherine Thompson, who is Chair of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care (ACPRC), and a member of the Secondary Care steering group which produced the RCP audit, said:

“The incremental improvement in COPD services which is evident in today’s audit is greatly welcomed but with only 62 per cent of Trusts reporting that all COPD patients are getting access to specialist physiotherapy, there is still a huge gap in the care being provided.  Commissioners need to ensure that specialist respiratory physiotherapy services are in place so that this vital service is available to patients seven days a week.”

Advice on how physiotherapy can help patients suffering from COPD is available from

The CSP’s Physio Works briefing on COPD highlights the clinical and cost effectiveness of physiotherapy in treating COPD.


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