Call for improvements over death rate linked to respiratory illnesses
The death rate from respiratory problems in Northern Ireland is among the worst in Europe, a watchdog said.
Each year over 10,000 patients are admitted to hospital for breathing-related conditions, which include bronchitis and emphysema.
Although praising the enthusiasm and skills of specialists, the health service regulator said there needed to be more equal access to services.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said: "Death rates from respiratory disease in the UK and Ireland rank among the worst in Europe.
"Each year in Northern Ireland, there are over 10,000 admissions to hospital for respiratory problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
"Some 2,000 people will die from a respiratory condition, accounting for around one in seven of all deaths."
Belfast health trust, the largest, is well-resourced but others are not as well staffed and there are problems integrating different specialties.
Glenn Houston, RQIA chief executive said: "RQIA's review team found that improvements are needed to community respiratory services to avoid unnecessary admission to hospital, and to extend availability into the evening and weekends.
"The review team highlighted the need for equal access to services across Northern Ireland for every patient, and for stronger integration across primary, community and acute services - from prevention to palliative and end of life care.
"Patients also called for better information on the services available."
"RQIA's review team found a committed community respiratory services workforce, providing a patient-centred service for those with long-term respiratory conditions across Northern Ireland. This view was also endorsed by those using the services."
The report made 17 recommendations to the Health and Social Care Board and trusts.