Survey of non-invasive ventilation (NIPPV) in patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the UK

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Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) complicated by respiratory failure. A survey was undertaken to assess the availability of NIPPV for the treatment of acute exacerbations of COPD and to determine how NIPPV is delivered in hospitals in the UK.


A questionnaire was sent to consultants with an interest in respiratory medicine from 268 of the hospitals found in the BTS directory. The questionnaire enquired about the hospital as well as the availability of NIPPV in the hospital. If NIPPV was available in the hospital, details of implementation, staffing and funding were determined.


Replies to the questionnaire were received from 98.5% of consultants. NIPPV was available in 48% of hospitals, these hospitals tending to serve larger populations and to have more respiratory physicians than the hospitals where NIPPV was not available. There was considerable regional variation in the availability of NIPPV. In hospitals where NIPPV was not available the reason(s) were lack of consultant training in 53%, lack of other staff training in 63%, financial in 63%, and doubt about the benefit of NIPPV in 15% of cases. In those hospitals where NIPPV was available, clinical practice varied greatly: 68% of centres treated fewer than 20 patients a year with this form of treatment and 9% treated more than 60 patients a year. Although NIPPV was paid for completely from the trust equipment budget in 46 hospitals (41%), other money such as research or charitable funds were used at least partially in the other hospitals and NIPPV was financed solely from research or charitable funds in 41 hospitals (37%).


Equipment for NIPPV is available in less than half of the acute hospitals in the UK. In those in which it is available it is generally underused. Lack of training and problems with funding are generally given for the failure to introduce NIPPV.

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