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26 March 2008

Good news for those with sleep disorders

Papworth Hospital, home of the largest sleep centre in the UK, was delighted to see the publication of new guidelines concerning the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), particularly as almost 90% of sufferers remain undiagnosed.

Dr John Shneerson, Director of Papworth’s Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre (RSSC) comments “Many sleep apnoea sufferers are unaware that they suffer from a condition that not only leaves them feeling tired but may also damage their health in the long term. But the good news is that the condition is treatable and that this treatment is now freely available on the NHS.”

The recent National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines are recommending treatment with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) if OSA symptoms are moderate or severe. Where it has previously been discretionary for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), who are responsible for funding health services, to treat this sleep disorder, it will now become compulsory. This is good news for those suffering from OSA.

Over 4,000 patients with OSA are currently treated by Papworth Hospital with CPAP. Their success is largely due to the emphasis on the clinical assessment of individual patients by staff skilled in sleep medicine rather than relying only on the results of sleep investigations. Their success in the long term is due to careful follow-up and their 24 hour help-line for patients.

New Sleep Clinic Outreach Service

In order to increase accessibility of CPAP in accordance with the NICE guidelines, Papworth Hospital is pioneering a new outreach service for sufferers of sleep disorders. Services are being planned in Harlow, Stevenage, Luton, Milton Keynes and areas of Norfolk.

Dr John Shneerson, Director of Papworth’s Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre (RSSC) adds “Papworth Hospital has been providing a comprehensive service for patients with all types of sleep disorders since it was established in the 1980’s and has a reputation for high quality of care and cost effectiveness. We receive referrals from all over the UK and our aim with this new local sleep service is to make our expertise more accessible to a wider population outside the hospital setting.”

With this new service, GPs will be able to refer patients to their local sleep service and if screening sleep studies are required they can be performed in the patient’s own home with the results available in the clinic. Very often the team will make recommendations that can be taken forward by the GP. A few patients, however, will need to be admitted to the RSSC at Papworth Hospital for a more comprehensive sleep study, or to start Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment.

A scheme in Norfolk has been running for two years with enthusiastic support from patients, referring clinicians and the Primary Care Trust. An audit of this scheme has shown excellent outcomes, proving that the high quality of patient care provided by RSSC staff is maintained outside the hospital setting and that most patients respond very well to treatment.


Editors Notes

For further information or to arrange an interview with a member of clinical staff, please contact Katharine Boness, Communications Manager on 01480 364929 or Morag Parsons on 01480 364657, Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Papworth Everard, Cambridge CB23 3RE.

RSSC facilities

Papworth Hospital’s RSSC has a fully equipped inpatient facility with 30 beds on the main ward and a further 6 dedicated sleep laboratory beds for complex overnight studies. A £4 million extension has recently been completed which houses a purpose built outpatient department where several sleep clinics are held each week.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is the repetitive narrowing or closure of the throat during sleep, which results in pauses in breathing. These pauses, which can occur up to 500 times a night, can cause oxygen levels to drop and are ended by brief awakenings from sleep, associated with a rapid rise in blood pressure. When frequent, the resulting sleep disruption often leads to an unrefreshing night’s sleep and daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms include snoring and nocturnal choking episodes, which are often witnessed by bed partners.

Severe OSA can

  • impair memory and concentration and increases the risk of serious accidents, particularly road traffic
  • affects around 2% of adult men and 0.5% of women in the UK
  • 500,000 affected in UK of which only 60,000 are treated (nearly 90% untreated)
  • if left untreated, recent evidence has linked OSA with increased risk of high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease
  • if left untreated over 10 years, recent evidence has linked OSA with 2.5 times increased risk of fatal heart attack/stroke, compared with patients who are treated
  • more than ten pauses in breathing in an hour is considered serious

What is Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP)

CPAP consists of a mask worn during sleep which is designed to fit snugly over the nose and sometimes the mouth as well. It is connected to a small (and quiet) machine which blows air into the throat, stopping it from flopping shut. CPAP is an effective treatment which does not require patients to take medication or undergo surgery.

About Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Papworth Hospital is the UK’s largest provider of specialist heart and lung services, notably cardiology, respiratory medicine, cardiothoracic surgery and heart and lung transplantation. It treats over 20,000 in patient and day cases and almost 30,000 outpatients each year. Performing the UK’s first heart transplant in 1979 and pioneering the first transplant of a “beating heart” in 2006, Papworth Hospital has established global renown as a clinical and research centre of excellence.

Please visit Papworth hospital’s website: www.papworthhospital.nhs.uk for information on the work of the RSSC.


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