In 2008, the RCP/BTS COPD Audit reviewed the multidisciplinary workforce provided by acute Trusts in managing the care of patients with COPD: the results showed that nationally, the median number of respiratory specialist physiotherapists employed in each hospital was 1 (Abstract P225 Table 1), highlighting that the understanding of the number and speciality level of this workforce is poorly recognised by other professionals. In conjunction with the BTS, and to complement the recently published BTS/ACPRC Physiotherapy Guidelines on the Spontaneously Breathing Adult Medical Patient (2009), a survey of the respiratory physiotherapy workforce was carried out in October 2009. An electronic questionnaire was sent to all ACPRC members and circulated to members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, with a request for a response from each institution, providing information on the number of respiratory physiotherapists, their grading and the estimated percentages of various diagnostic respiratory cases seen on a daily basis. 149 responses were received: 70% (n=105) from acute trusts, 24% (n=36) from primary care organisations. 73% (n=110) of respiratory physiotherapists were employed by physiotherapy departments: 59% (n=89) as dedicated medical respiratory physiotherapy teams, the rest providing cross speciality respiratory physiotherapy cover. The results highlight the model of staffing most often seen in respiratory physiotherapy, with the team consisting of a range of staffing grades but no standard team structure nationally. The level of physiotherapy clinician leading the team varied from Band 7 to a Consultant Respiratory Physiotherapist (8A – 8D): the average was less than 1 at Band 8 nationally. 54% (n=81) of responders were ACPRC members, 19% (n=28) both ACPRC and BTS members. The survey identified that largely the respiratory physiotherapy workforce is not embedded within respiratory medicine departments which means that appreciation of multidisciplinary team membership is of even greater importance. Despite the survey identifying a higher number of respiratory physiotherapists compared to earlier audit results, it also highlighted a workforce capacity shortfall, leaving some respiratory patients untreated on a daily basis. In addition, there is a need to encourage membership of special interest groups such as the ACPRC and BTS to promote exchange and dissemination of good practice.
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