Background: Long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) extends life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with severe hypoxaemia. Questionnaire-based studies of the effects of LTOT have not suggested uniformly positive findings. The few qualitative studies suggest that patients report benefits but also concerns about dependency on oxygen therapy. The aim of the study was to explore the views and experiences of COPD patients, their carers and the healthcare professionals who deliver these services, on the long-term use of oxygen therapy.
Methods: Focus groups were conducted with 16 patients with from the LTOT service, six carers, and nine healthcare professionals (n = 31). Eleven patients with COPD, four carers and one staff manager (n = 16) participated in semi-structured interviews. Interviews and focus group were digitally recorded and field notes were taken. Data were analysed using the thematic network analysis approach.
Results: Patients and carers reported the benefits of LTOT including increased social activity, perceived improvements in health status and self-management in routine daily activities. Concerns were raised regarding stigma, dependency on LTOT and deterioration in health status. Staff accounts included negative perceptions, suggesting that LTOT was often inappropriately prescribed and under-used but recommended active patient management to address this challenge.
Conclusions: LTOT has some beneficial effects in improving daily activities and social interaction of patients with COPD but also some limitations. Increased support and monitoring by healthcare professionals would address some concerns, as would better information for patients, carers and the general public.