Lung Health Experts Warn of the Impact COVID-19 and Staff Shortages Will Have on Lung Disease Patients


Since COVID-19 tightened its grip on the world in early 2020, the general population has grown increasingly aware of the risks to your respiratory health.

Despite this, lung health teams continue to be understaffed, leaving the Royal College of Nursing and other members of the Taskforce for Lung Health concerned about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have on an already very strained department.

A staffing issue was identified three years ago in 2018, but since then the taskforce has said that little progress has been made to increase staff members.

With the pandemic, an already understaffed team of respiratory nurses were required to treat COVID-19 patients and were no longer able to adequately deliver routine and specialist clinics for patients suffering from lung problems, causing these patients to be deprived of access to the specialist treatment they require.

The huge demand for respiratory care is only going to increase as nurses will be required to continue to respond to COVID-19 patients and treat current and future sufferers of long COVID.

Furthermore, Wendy Preston, Head of Nursing Practice at the RCN and a consultant respiratory nurse, warned that many specialist respiratory nurses are coming up for retirement and plans are needed to replace them.

She said: “Specialist nurses play a significant role in supporting patients with respiratory illnesses.

We know that approximately half of these specialist nurses could retire within the next six years, therefore it is critical that workforce is prioritised to attract the next generation of nurses and retrain existing expertise.

Concerned for the future of respiratory care and treatment, Alison Cook, chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health said: “We must now see an immediate review into the current shortages in the respiratory workforce, and the potential long-term impact COVID-19 on staffing levels across the sector – the wellbeing of people living with lung disease depends on it.

Mark Radford, chief nurse at workforce body Health Education England revealed that there are plans being explored around the development of specialist nursing roles, specifically focussed on long COVID, leaving respiratory nurses to focus on providing care to those suffering with lung disease.

Specialist long COVID nurses could work to support COVID patients alongside other highly specialist roles in community, primary care and acute settings who already manage complex symptoms as part of their routine work,” said Mark Radford.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of caring for your lung health and the necessary work of respiratory nurses.

In 2019, over 72,000 people died due to diseases of the respiratory system, 12,00 of those deaths were linked to past exposure to harmful particles or chemicals at work. Deaths that could have been prevented if the correct protection, education and training was in place.

As leading supplier to the NHS, here at Full Support Healthcare we’re proud to be supporting the NHS with its battle against COVID-19 and other preventable lung diseases through the supply of high-quality PPE and RPE and a range of training programmes provided by our fit2fit accredited educators.

For more information about how Full Support can help your respiratory department, get in touch.