Apprehensive 'mood music' at BTS winter meeting, where physio Rachael Moses' term as president ends
Physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals who work in NHS respiratory teams are being stretched to ‘breaking point’, meaning that patients could end up missing out on the access to the expertise they need.
That was the message delivered to members of the British Thoracic Society (BTS) who gathered at the QEII Conference Centre in London for the society’s 2022 Winter Meeting , which is being held from 23-25 November.
The 'mood music' at the meeting – which will see high-profile respiratory physio Rachael Moses hand over the BTS presidential reins to her successor, Professor Onn Min Konas, as her one-year term ends – was said to be one of ‘apprehension’ as the pressure on the health system mounts with the approach of winter.
'Goodwill' could run out
Respiratory specialists are facing rises in cases of influenza, asthma, pneumonia and Covid-19 – at a time when the availability of intensive care beds has fallen, the BTS pointed out.
For too long many respiratory services have operated through the goodwill of staff but, in light of increasing pressures, including the impact of Covid on respiratory teams, it is clear that this is not sustainable [Paul Walker, BTS]
Paul Walker, who chairs the BTS Board of Trustees, said: ‘If you have a lung condition and are treated by a respiratory specialist you are more likely to have the correct diagnosis, receive the best treatments and consequently have fewer symptoms and a better quality of life.
‘For too long many respiratory services have operated through the goodwill of staff but, in light of increasing pressures, including the impact of Covid on respiratory teams, it is clear that this is not sustainable.'
Dr Walker added: ‘Our frustration is that adequate staffing would allow us to address the seasonal nature of respiratory care which contributes so much to NHS winter pressure.’
The ‘clear consensus’ among BTS members – which includes a sizeable number of physiotherapists – was that respiratory services had performed admirably in the recent Covid-19 affected years, but that the chronic understaffing and under-resourcing of respiratory departments continues to blight NHS provision.
A BTS survey, conducted in 2020, found that many respiratory teams in the UK were looking after up to 40 extra patients based outside respiratory wards to manage illnesses that had been exacerbated by winter conditions.
Meanwhile, the BTS said that respiratory specialists are also supporting colleagues in general medicine more which – although a testament to a dedicated respiratory workforce – means respiratory patients could be deprived of the specialist care they need amid rising staff fatigue levels.
With many respiratory illnesses so closely linked to health inequality, any shortfalls particularly affect the most vulnerable communities, it added.
To read PhysioUpdate’s exclusive interview with Rachael Moses about her trailblazing term as BTS president, visit: https://www.physioupdate.co.uk/news/physio-rachael-moses-reflects-on-her-trailblazing-year-as-president-of-the-british-thoracic-society
What is the British Thoracic Society (BTS)?
The BTS seeks to improve standards of care for people who have respiratory diseases and to support and develop those who provide that care.
The London-based registered charity has more 4,200 members, including doctors, nurses, respiratory physiotherapists, scientists and other professionals with an interest in the field.
To find out more, visit: www.brit-thoracic.org.uk Twitter: @BTSRespiratory
Author: Ian A McMillan