Our pulmonary rehabilitation working group

The Taskforce’s pulmonary rehabilitation working group was set up to drive forward recommendations to give everyone who would benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) access to it.

In light of COVID-19, we are seeing alternative options to face-to-face PR explored, such as digital services, in order to ensure that people are not exposed to the risk of infection. In June 2021, we published our position paper on the future of pulmonary rehabilitation services and made recommendations for improving the delivery of services in the context of COVID-19.

You can find out more about who chairs the group on our about page.

As a group we’re focusing on several areas of work, which were identified as priorities in the Taskforce’s five-year plan. These are:

  • Making sure everyone gets access to the best quality PR
  • Working with NHS England and local areas
  • Increasing awareness of the benefits of PR

Ultimately, we want everyone who needs PR to have the opportunity to complete a tailored PR programme.

Making sure everyone gets access to the best quality PR

Currently, not every PR service is open to those who would benefit. People with less common types of lung conditions and those with milder lung disease (also called MRC grade 2) should be able to access PR. We’re making the case to policy-makers that eligibility should be broadened out to include all those who would benefit.

Some people can find it difficult to access PR due to transport issues or because their health means making the journey can be too difficult. We sent our position on transport to NHS England who are currently reviewing patient transport services.

We’re also supporting initiatives to ensure people who do attend PR classes get the best possible standard of treatment. There is variation in this at the moment. We are working with the Royal College of Physicians’ national asthma and COPD programme on their audit of PR services, to highlight good practise and areas for improvement. We’re also supporting the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services Accreditation Scheme to encourage providers to work towards their standards of care.

Working with NHS England and local areas

NHS England identified PR as a priority in the NHS Long Term Plan. We’re pleased that they are expanding the number of services so that more people can access PR.

We contributed to the new NHS service specification which sets out how PR should be delivered. The last guidance was published nearly a decade ago, so this is an important update to help the NHS to design services.

The group has also been speaking to local health systems around the country about their plans to improve access to PR. We created a briefing pack of resources (PDF, 1.08MB) and tools to help local NHS areas apply for new targeted funding from NHS England. This also includes help with developing their rehab workforce. We want to work with areas receiving the funding and support their plans.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, face-to-face PR sessions have stopped. Some services have adapted to providing PR, but this will not be available to everyone and is likely to vary in quality. We want an evidence-based digital offering to be in place to help those who need support before face-to-face classes can resume.

Increasing awareness of the benefits of PR

Although the benefits of PR are well established, not many people have heard of it. We need more health care professionals to promote its benefits to their patients and refer them. And we need more people with lung disease and their carers to understand the difference PR can make to their quality of life.

A key piece of work for us in 2020 is reviewing existing resources which explain and promote PR. Then we can work out if there are gaps and how we can fill them. We’ll be publishing our findings here.