Palliative care services for those with chronic lung disease

Chron Respir Dis. 2009;6(1):13-7. doi: 10.1177/1479972308100538.


Excellent palliative care is available for patients with advanced lung cancer. Whether the same services are available for those with nonmalignant respiratory disease is less clear. A questionnaire was sent to 210 named respiratory physicians, each representing a major hospital in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. A total of 107 replies were received; the response rate was 51.0%. Respondents cared for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asbestosis, and diffuse parenchymal lung disease but only a third had responsibility for cystic fibrosis. Physicians were supported by a mean of 3.4 respiratory nurse specialists per department and 73.8% had a specialist lung cancer nurse. In only 16 cases (20.3%) did that nurse extend care to those with nonmalignant disease. Only a minority reported easy access to hospice in-patient care or day care. About 21.5% of the respondents had formal policies in place for care of patients with chronic respiratory disease nearing the end of life, but 87.9% of respondents had no formal process for initiating end of life discussions with those with terminal respiratory illness. Patients with advanced nonmalignant respiratory disease have less universal access to specialist palliative care services than do those with malignant lung disease, and in the majority of hospitals there is no formalized approach to end of life care issues with patients with chronic lung disease.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends
  • Lung Diseases / therapy*
  • Nurse Clinicians / supply & distribution
  • Palliative Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce