Published: 11/08/2005, Volume II5, No. 5967 Page 17

Dr Ed Neville, chair, British Thoracic Society

We are delighted that chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson has highlighted the burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in his annual report (news, page 7, 21 July).

The costs of COPD to this country and the NHS are huge. COPD affects over 3 million people a year in the UK and results in 30,000 deaths; it is the fifth biggest killer.

COPD is a hugely disabling, progressive lung disease. Sufferers have difficulty completing even the most basic of tasks such as getting dressed or making a cup of tea.

Positive interventions such as smoking cessation and early diagnosis using spirometry testing and pulmonary rehabilitation can make a real difference. We are therefore delighted that Sir Liam has called for a national service framework for COPD.

An NSF is vital if we are to ensure such interventions are consistently available and achieve uniformly high standards of care for patients up and down the country.

The British Thoracic Society and General Practice Airways Group are already committed to working together across primary and secondary care in conjunction with government and patient organisations to achieve better care and treatment for the millions who struggle for breath every day. An NSF will act as the driving force to support this happening.