Variability in the organisation and management of hospital care for COPD exacerbations in the UK

Respir Med. 2007 Apr;101(4):754-61. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2006.08.016. Epub 2006 Oct 11.


Previous smaller UK audits have demonstrated wide variation in organisation, resources, and process of care for acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) admissions. Smallest units appeared to do less well. UK acute hospitals supplied information on (1) resources and organisation of care, (2) clinical data on process of care and outcomes for up to 40 consecutive COPD admissions. Comparisons were made against national recommendations. Eight thousand and thirteen admissions involved 7529 patients from 233 units (93% of UK acute Trusts). Twenty-six percent of units had at most one whole-time equivalent respiratory consultant while 12% had at least four. Thirty percent patients were admitted under a respiratory specialist and 48% discharged under their care whilst 28% had no specialist input at all. Variation in care provision was wide across all hospitals but patients in smaller hospitals had less access to specialist respiratory or admission wards, pulmonary rehabilitation programs, specialty triage or an early discharge scheme. Six percent of units did not have access to NIV and 18% to invasive ventilatory support. There remains wide variation in all aspects of acute hospital COPD care in the UK, with smaller hospitals offering fewest services. Those receiving specialist input are more likely to be offered interventions of proven effect. Management guidelines alone are insufficient to address inequalities of care and a clear statement of minimum national standards for resource provision and organisation of COPD care are required. This study provides a unique insight into the current state of care for patients admitted with COPD exacerbations in the UK.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Resources / organization & administration
  • Health Services Administration / standards*
  • Health Workforce / organization & administration
  • Hospital Bed Capacity
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Medical Audit / methods
  • Medical Records
  • Prognosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / mortality
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Care Units / organization & administration
  • United Kingdom