Focus on patients with respiratory conditions in light of COVID-19

The latest meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vulnerable Groups to Pandemics, hosted by APPG Chair Virendra Sharma MP and attended by Parliamentarians such as Lord Mendelsohn and Sir Paul Beresford MP, discussed the care and treatment patients with respiratory conditions have received throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 22 April, the APPG held a webinar with four guest speakers; Sarah Woolnough, CEO of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation, Prof. Daniel Peckham, Professor of Respiratory medicine at St James Hospital, Leeds, Natalie Goodchild, a cystic fibrosis patient and Carol Stoneham, the Primary Care Respiratory Society Executive Chair. They each shared their point of view on the standard of care respiratory patients have received and provided key analysis of the changes needed to improve services for respiratory patients going forward.

The guest speakers addressed several issues in respiratory care, including the difficulties respiratory patients have faced in accessing primary and secondary care throughout the pandemic, particularly delayed diagnosis, the lack of access to rehabilitation classes, and the ever-growing backlog of respiratory care that is building across the NHS. Several of the guest speakers indicated a need for a serious overhaul of the data system for respiratory patients, evidencing its downfalls and lack of scope. Probing questions of Parliamentarians illuminated the need for a national recovery plan for respiratory patients, following the great example of cancer services recovery plan.

The backlog of care and treatment has been identified as a key issue for respiratory patients and without a concerted effort of all stakeholders and appropriate funding, the backlog threatens to increase and leave behind many patients suffering from asthma, COPD, pulmonary or cystic fibrosis.

As highlighted in previous APPG events, digital technology used throughout the pandemic was regarded as a relative success, enabling support and limited care for patients who were unable to attend appointments or whose care services were forced to close. Further use of digital technologies was identified as a positive change, but the need for individual considerations, which was a running theme throughout the event, was also emphasised. The focus on outpatient, home care, enhanced by new digital technologies is a viable option for future care, in light of the already stretched capacity in the NHS, but improved data systems and a thought for those without access to technology must be considered.

The conclusions made in this event will be invaluable to the inquiry report due towards the end of the year to inform a future government strategy to protect vulnerable groups through pandemics. In the meantime, the APPG will work with interested stakeholders on the next steps to address the need for a national platform combining data for all respiratory conditions and address the lack of the NHS respiratory diseases recovery plan from Covid-19.

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The minutes of the meeting are available here: DOWNLOAD