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RespiratoryFeb 16, 2021

Innovative respiratory support units must be funded and rolled out across the UK, urges the BTS

Funds should be freed up urgently to allow every acute hospital in the UK to have a respiratory support unit (RSU), according to the British Thoracic Society (BTS), whose president elect is a physiotherapist.

The RSU approach emerged in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and has been refined into a standardised model by the BTS and the Intensive Care Society.

Photo Credit: BTS
Professor Bennett insists the size of the respiratory workforce must grow


In a statement timed to coincide with the society's winter meeting, which is being held today, its chair Jon Bennett said RSUs must be a ‘centre of excellence in respiratory care’ at every acute hospital.

'It’s imperative that they are officially recognised, supported and adequately funded so that they can outlive the Covid-19 pandemic,' Professor Bennett noted. ‘They need robust standard operating policies and the appropriate workforce from the start, as well as funding to run them.

‘We know that the skills already exist in our NHS, however the numbers do not. So, we also need a commitment to increase the size of specialised respiratory workforce,’ Professor Bennett added.

Physiotherapists providing 24-hour care are a part of the solution


It's not just about the latest technology and equipment but having a highly skilled multidisciplinary team ... this includes specialist respiratory physiotherapists providing 24-hour care [Rachael Moses, physio and BTS president elect]

Professor Bennett's comments were reinforced by Rachael Moses, a physiotherapist and BTS president elect, who said: 'Respiratory support units are designed to provide the very best of specialist care in a dedicated ward environment. 

'It's not just about the latest technology and equipment but having a highly skilled multidisciplinary team that can care for patients who are very unwell, often with multiple co-morbidities. 

'This includes specialist respiratory physiotherapists providing 24-hour care and other allied health professionals – including, dietitians, speech and language therapists, pharmacists and occupational therapists.'

Expertise in non-invasive ventilation is vital

The units are designed to be based in respiratory wards, staffed by physios and other acute respiratory care specialists with expertise in non-invasive ventilation, in particular.

Staff should have access to dedicated space and oxygen infrastructure, and would be expected to work closely with intensive care departments, the BTS said in a statement released today.

Key points about RSUs

  • existing RSU-like arrangements provide respiratory support for patients with Covid-19 outside critical care settings, alleviating pressures on intensive care beds
  • respiratory teams use techniques such as high flow nasal oxygen and continuous positive airway pressure in dedicated areas of their wards 
  • their impact has been endorsed by an NHS Getting it Right First Time report that was released at the end of 2020 see: https://www.gettingitrightfirsttime.co.uk/girft-reports

The British Thoracic Society is the UK’s professional body for respiratory specialists. Its 3,800 membership includes a number of physios.

Physiotherapist Rachael Moses will become BTS president in November. To find out more, see: Rachael Moses' new role is a 'monumental occasion' for physiotherapy at: https://www.physioupdate.co.uk/on-the-move

For more information on RSUs, see: https://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk/delivery-of-care/respiratory-support-units/







Author: Ian A McMillan
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