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.

This working group existed until spring 2022, when it was formally disbanded and replaced with a Workforce working group in recognition of the fact many of the challenges around access to PR required a larger and more sustainable workforce.

The PR working group focused on increasing awareness of the benefits of PR an making sure everyone who needs it receives access to the best quality PR.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted both the challenges and opportunities facing PR – with increased demand and less capacity within the PR workforce, PR ambitions within NHS England’s Long-Term Plan were at risk. Yet, the pandemic also allowed services to adapt and deliver PR in new, innovative ways that met the varied preferences of people with lung disease.

We want to see PR offered to a wider range of respiratory patients, better data collection on quality, access to face-to-face and online PR, a sustainable PR workforce, and for all work to be informed by the experiences of patients and carers.

Working with NHS England

To achieve our PR objectives, we made recommendations to support the improvement of PR services for people with a range of respiratory conditions, which we set out to NHS England in a position paper in March 2022.

We also 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.

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 submitted our position on non-emergency transport services, particularly in relation to the impact on attendance and uptake of PR, to NHS England, whose overall review can be found here.

Ultimately, we need more funding to be made available to help local systems offer PR to more people who may benefit, and we created a briefing pack of resources 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 are pleased that NHS England now has a new dedicated Director of Rehabilitation, and we work closely with Taskforce members who are part of Community Rehab Alliance to ensure that pulmonary rehab is included in any future vision of rehabilitation.

Encouraging greater participation in PR

Although the benefits of PR are well established, many people are unaware of PR as a treatment option. We need more healthcare 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.

To help raise awareness of the benefits of PR, Taskforce have produced a short information video. 

Taskforce video: stories from people with long-term lung conditions about pulmonary rehabilitation

We urge that anyone who has a lung condition and whose ability to be active is affected by breathing difficulties, contacts their GP or other healthcare professional to find out if they are eligible to take part in a PR programme, and what options are available to them.

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 policymakers that eligibility should be broadened to include all those who would benefit.