The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has called on the government to offer physiotherapy as a preventative measure in England after a new coronavirus outbreak killed at least 50 people.
The RCP’s president, Dr Mark Pardee, said the new coronasitic pandemic should prompt government to consider the use of “alternative treatments” for people with COVID, such as physiotherapy, as a means to help slow the spread of the virus.
The coronaviruses COVID and H7N9 can also cause respiratory problems, but are rarely fatal.
The two viruses are spread by coughing and sneezing, and can be spread through contact with the respiratory secretions of the airways.
In April, the government announced a £3m grant to the Royal College to explore alternative treatments for COVID victims and their families, such that they could be used in emergency settings.
The scheme will look at how to prevent or treat COVID in emergency departments and nursing homes.
The Royal Colleges National Executive Board said it was a “crucial step forward in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people with COPD” after the government’s £3.5m COVID research grant announcement in May.
“This funding will enable us to work together with the Royal Colleges, the Royal Society of Nursing, and others to identify ways in which people with chronic respiratory diseases can benefit from alternative treatments,” the RCP said in a statement.
“While the vast majority of people who have been affected by coronaviral infection are not going to require any treatment, it is important that the government considers alternatives to the existing medical therapies and treatments for those who do require such treatment.”
Pardie said the RCPs research would explore how to develop new treatments for people who require the use or encouragement of the respiratory system.
“It is vital that the Royal Hospitals and Care Hospitals are able to offer respite services and treatments that meet the needs of people affected by COVID,” he said.
The government said in May that it was investigating a pilot scheme in the UK and US to offer patients a free physiotherapist service if they had been in an acute respiratory infection.
It is unclear whether the new COVID funding will go ahead, but the RCs president said that it would not have a direct effect on the study.
He said the research could be useful “in terms of understanding how COVID may spread and how the respiratory pathophysiology of COVID differs to other coronavirotic infections”.
The RCPs national executive board said it hoped the scheme would encourage the development of “other treatments for COPD”.
In a letter to the prime minister, Pardooe said: “While we have been told that this funding will have no impact on the current COVID trial, we would urge you to reconsider the funding, as we need a more comprehensive and effective response to COVID as a public health threat in the 21st century.”
He said that although the government was not recommending the use and encouragement of any treatments, it would continue to monitor the trial.
“The government is committed to the NHS and its patients,” he added.
“We have been able to ensure that our trial will continue as planned with a focus on providing an effective and cost-effective respiratory support service to our patients.”
A spokesman for NHS England said: Our primary priority is to ensure all patients with COVI receive the best available care.
The Government has recently announced additional funding to help prevent the spread and death of COVI, including £10m to help with respiratory support and £3 million to provide free physiostatic support to people affected with COV-19.
“NHS England is committed, however, to supporting the existing COVID trials as a way of helping people who are ill with COPH to have access to treatments and to reduce the spread,” the spokesman said.