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PCRS welcomes collaborative initiative to Act on COPD


There are currently around 1.3 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with COPD. It is a condition that affects the quality of life of those affected and can lead to premature death. It has often been referred to as the Cinderella condition and often seems to be treated with complacency – some patients feel it is their fault for having smoked, and health care professionals accept that acute exacerbation along with deterioration over time are a normal part of the disease trajectory.

It is now well recognised that the 1.3 million cases only tell a part of the story. A few years ago, we talked of the missing millions – symptomatic people who were yet to present or be diagnosed. Even when patients do present, a delay or inaccurate diagnosis is common. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation as we have moved through an extended period of changing the way health care is delivered particularly in primary care where there has been little access to diagnostic spirometry to confirm COPD, and where resources have been diverted to deal with the more pressing need of the pandemic.

Even prior to the pandemic, there was evidence from the National Asthma and COPD Audit programme that inaccurate diagnosis, incorrect or missing testing and delays in diagnosis were common.

As we move forward and to a new period of healthcare delivery, we have the opportunity to look at the care patients with COPD receive, and to challenge the thinking and approach to the care we deliver. The pandemic has spotlighted what is possible and uncovered how health inequalities for different patient groups have a negative impact on morbidity and mortality. A more proactive approach to accurate timely diagnosis and prevention of exacerbations and disease progression is needed. Now is the time to challenge the complacency around expected health outcomes for people with COPD.

We’re pleased to have worked in collaboration with the British Lung Foundation, ARNS, the ACPRC and the National Pharmacy Association on a National COPD Policy Action Plan. The Action Plan, initiated and funded by AstraZeneca outlines a number of key ambitions for change, including measures to help improve prevention, diagnosis, and minimising health inequalities in care.