Virtual treatment services for people with COPD approved for NHS use

21 December 2023, 00:04

NHS Signage
NHS Signage. Picture: PA

Nearly 1.2 million people in England are currently diagnosed as having the respiratory condition.

Two digital treatment technologies designed to help people with COPD manage their own condition have been approved for use with the NHS.

It is hoped virtual treatments could address the unmet need for rehabilitation programmes for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

The digital technologies offer exercise programmes and education sessions, and could suit those who do not have a service where they live or would prefer not to be treated in person.

The technologies, named myCOPD and Space for COPD, are the first virtual treatments approved for widespread NHS use for the respiratory condition.

Nearly 1.2 million people in England are diagnosed with the long-term and progressive respiratory condition, with an estimated two million still undiagnosed.

It causes breathlessness, a persistent chesty cough, persistent wheezing and frequent chest infections. It includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Respiratory tract infections, smoking, and environmental pollutants can flare-up symptoms.

Exacerbations caused by COPD are the second most common cause of emergency hospital admissions, accounting for one in eight of all UK hospital admissions.

Evidence suggests 90% of patients who complete a face-to-face pulmonary rehabilitation programme experience increased exercise capacity and improved quality of life, but services are only offered to 13% of eligible patients according to the NHS.

Mark Chapman, interim director of the Health Technologies Programme at Nice, said: “There is a huge unmet need for access to pulmonary rehabilitation programmes by people with COPD.

“Our committee hopes by recommending two digital technologies which provide these programmes they could help people living in areas without access to an in-person service to receive the vital care they need.

“With more than a million people suffering from this debilitating condition, it’s important that NICE continues to focus on what matters most and continue to provide useful and useable guidance for the conditions which severely impact people and the health service.”

The new technologies – both available on mobile phone or tablet – can be used once they have appropriate regulatory approval and meet the standards within NHS England’s Digital Technology Assessment Criteria.

A consultation has now begun on the recommendations, and comments can be submitted to Nice until January 10, 2024.

By Press Association

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