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Coronavirus: Oxygen supplies will be stretched as patients recover at home, NHS warns

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Demand for oxygen from COVID-19 patients recovering at home is set to place the NHS under strain, the health service has warned.

NHS England has issued guidance to out-of-hospital health providers on the extra demands likely to be placed on them given the number of people recovering after a hospital stay with the coronavirus. It warns that the provision from its home oxygen services and community respiratory teams across the NHS is expected to be an issue as the scale of demand increases.

Andrew Whittamore, a practising GP and clinical lead for the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation partnership, said concerns about the potential for hospitals to be overwhelmed in the early part of the pandemic had led to community oxygen teams being primed to take on more patients – but he described that ramping up as “a short-term fix”.

“We don’t know how long people are going to need oxygen or other services for,” he said. “There are definitely going to be extra patients added on to our community teams’ workloads.”

The Taskforce for Lung Health – of which the British Lung Foundation is a member – has raised particular concerns about access to pulmonary rehabilitation. An education- and exercise-based treatment, which is proven to be more effective for lung patients than many drug-based treatments, and face-to-face classes have been suspended during the pandemic. It may be that such treatment would also be helpful for some patients recovering from COVID-19.

Jackie Eagleton, policy officer at the British Lung Foundation, said there had been issues with access to pulmonary rehabilitation for a long time, but the need to offer this form of support to people with lung conditions “has never been more pressing than it is now”.

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Source: The Independent, 16 June 2020

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