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Supporting those with COPD and other respiratory diseases

It is estimated that over 3 million people in the UK are living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other related respiratory disease but of those only approximately 835,000 have been diagnosed and are being treated. With better awareness, and clearer pathways to treatment, there will be implications for workforce planning, and commissioning of respiratory care services.

Skills for Health, in collaboration with the Respiratory Programme in the Department of Health, has led on the development of a respiratory disease competence framework that describes the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are required to deliver patient centred respiratory care. Competence frameworks are focused on outcomes and are an indispensible tool for those managing and developing a highly skilled workforce. They inform the development of education and training programmes as well as assessment strategies, all of which are going to be vital in implementing the Respiratory Disease Outcomes Framework.

The purpose of this work is to provide an underpinning framework of National Occupational Standards (NOS) and Units of Learning for the respiratory care workforce, so that people can plan and develop their services more effectively. The NOS and units of learning were identified following much consultation with the members of the development group, and with input from healthcare professionals as well as professional bodies and other national groups.

The suite of resources includes:

  • Main report – this outlines the rationale and uses for the Units of Learning for COPD
  • Mapping document – shows how the Units of Learning relate to the COPD Spectrum


The assessment of an individual’s practice should be undertaken by someone who is occupationally competent in the area being assessed. It will be down to each employer organisation to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to manage the assessment of practice by its staff.

National Occupational Standards are a series of competences to describe what individuals working with patients with COPD and other respiratory diseases need to do, what they need to know and which skills they need in order to carry out an activity.

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Some policies, strategies and guidance were developed under the previous government.