Focus on Respiratory

11 Jul 2020

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Doctors specialising in respiratory medicine diagnose and treat respiratory conditions affecting the patient. The respiratory (breathing) system includes structures such as the nose, throat (pharynx), larynx, the windpipe (trachea), the lungs and the diaphragm.

Respiratory medicine is a busy and varied profession. With one-third of all acute medical admissions to hospital being of a respiratory nature. 1

Where do Respiratory Consultants usually work?

Respiratory Consultants can work in the following areas:

  • Acute Hospitals – In Intensive Care Units- ICU, with ventilated patients, or acutely ill patients requiring intensive care from staff.
  • Outpatients Departments:

There are general respiratory and specialist clinics. Asthmatic patients and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) sufferers are often treated in public clinics. 

COPD includes chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive airways disease. The GP may refer patients with abnormal chest x-rays, haemoptysis (coughing up blood), breathlessness, or other respiratory conditions requiring assessment.

  • Respiratory physicians also run lung function tests which are a significant way to assess the functioning of the patient’s lungs and assist in the diagnosis of disease.
  • Some respiratory units specialise in specific areas, such as lung transplant1

What are the common Respiratory Conditions that Consultants treat?

Common respiratory conditions include:

  • COVID-10 (at present)
  • Asthma
  • COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Chronic Bronchitis – Inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which transport air to and from the lungs.
  • Pneumonia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Emphysema- A condition where the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs are damaged, causing shortness of breath.
  • Pleural Effusion -A build-up of fluid around the lungs.
  • Respiratory infections
  • Pulmonary fibrosis- A lung disease caused by scarred/damaged tissue.
  • TB – Tuberculosis
  • Mesothelioma- Cancer that develops from a thin layer of tissue that covers the internal organs.
  • Lung Cancer

Consultant roles

How do I become a Respiratory Consultant?

You can apply for consultant roles six months before your Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). You receive your CCT at the end of your respiratory medicine training.

Management Roles include:

  • A clinical lead – lead NHS consultant for the respiratory team
  • A clinical director – lead NHS consultant for the respiratory department
  • A medical director – lead NHS consultant for the trust

SAS doctor roles

SAS doctors – Staff, Associate Specialists and Specialty Doctors- will practice as career grade speciality doctors who are not in training or consultant posts. You will need at least four postgraduate years of training (two of those being in a relevant speciality) before you can apply for SAS roles.1

Other non-training grade roles include staff grade and clinical fellows.

Can Respiratory Consultants branch out into sub-specialities?

While there are no formally recognised subspecialties, respiratory medicine has several important ‘special interest’ areas including lung transplantation, adult cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and more.1

What does the job market look like?

Respiratory medicine is one of the largest speciality in the UK Respiratory diseases now affect one in five in the UK, making career opportunities for specialists in this area widespread.

Respiratory medicine is an area that is moving rapidly with new treatments such as interventional bronchoscopy and medical thoracoscopy (diagnostic examinations using scopes to examine and treat the patient)  and improvements in the management of several conditions.1

Research is prominent and ever-increasing in respiratory circles, and in the future, more respiratory experts will be community-based .1


Respiratory medicine is both a unique and rewarding specialty which is particularly relevant now with the respiratory virus of Covid-19 in our society.

We have opportunities for many disciplines, including respiratory medicine, and if you want to talk to one of our dedicated recruitment consultants, why not register today.


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More Information available at Respiratory medicine | Health Careers.

11 Jul 2020 | Leave a comment

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