UK respiratory departments still dangerously under resourced finds survey

  • British Thoracic Society

  • Priscilla Lynch
  • UK Professional News
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Despite their crucial role in the care of COVID-19 patients, respiratory departments in NHS Trusts across the country are still under-staffed and under-resourced, a new survey by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) suggests.

The survey of BTS respiratory leads, representing UK Respiratory Departments, asked about staffing levels and changes departments had experienced since February 2020.

About staffing levels, respondents said:

  • 71% don’t have enough medical staff to manage their workload.
  • 80% don’t have enough non-medical staff to manage their workload.
  • 71% don’t have enough bed space to cope with the number of patients they have.

Despite being promoted to reduce hospital crowding and improve care, only 50% said they have enough resources (staff and equipment) to manage patients virtually/remotely

Figures by NHS Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) show that over 40% of hospitalised COVID-19 patients require oxygen therapy, predominantly delivered in respiratory wards, while another 17% require extra breathing and other organ support delivered in Respiratory Support Units or in Intensive Care. Respiratory specialists also help care for the 43% of hospitalised COVID-19 patients requiring specialist care but less intensive respiratory support.

In the BTS survey, respondents were asked if from February there was a change:

  •   In staff sickness. 87% said it increased
  •   In workload. 91% said it increased
  •   In patients’ waiting time. 73% said it increased
  •   In the extra hours put in by staff. 80% said these increased
  •   In how possible it has been to take annual leave. 66% said chances to do so decreased.

Prof Jon Bennett, Chair of BTS said: “It is a sad indictment that respiratory services have never been prioritised and thus it is no surprise that they are struggling to cope with a global pandemic of respiratory disease.”

The survey response rate was 35% (85 out of 244 respiratory departments in the UK). Answers were collected at end of November.