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Winter warning as 35,000 respiratory diagnoses delayed due to pandemic

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Patients with respiratory disease have been overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the NHS storing up problems for the winter months, a group of experts including the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned.

Analysis by the 34-member Taskforce for Lung Health showed that referrals for lung conditions fell by 70% in April, with two-in-five (39%) of CCGs seeing no appointment bookings for respiratory conditions for the whole of May.

On average, the group calculated a weekly average of 3,399 lung patients missing out on urgent and routine referrals during the COVID-19 lockdown, amounting to a total of at least 34,780 people, based on NHS England data.

This was blamed in part on a general reduction in routine procedures during the pandemic, which will have affected all disease areas, but also the limitations on clinicians including GPs to carry out spirometry due to the risk of COVID-19 infection spread.

But the taskforce - which includes the RCGP and the Primary Care Respiratory Society, as well as the Royal College of Physicians and Asthma UK - is now calling on NHS England to urgently restore services to pre-pandemic levels to tackle the backlog of lung patients requiring support. It said that failure to do so risked causing the premature death of patients who require urgent diagnosis as well as overwhelming the NHS during the winter season, when respiratory symptoms worsen.

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Source: Pulse, 9 July 2020

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