A CHRONIC shortage of places on rehab courses for people with long-term lung conditions means only one in nine such patients in Lothian can benefit from the scheme.
An estimated 9000 people in the region could be helped by the free programme of exercise and information provided by the NHS, but there is only capacity for around 1100.
Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale called on the Scottish Government to provide more investment to improve access to pulmonary rehabilitation.
She said: “People living with a long-term lung condition are among the biggest users of health services in Scotland, with thousands of hospital admissions each year.
“Lung rehabilitation is proven to be clinically effective and is one of the most cost-effective treatment options available for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reducing both the number of bed days and admissions.
“But there simply aren’t enough places available on pulmonary rehab programmes for everyone that would benefit.”
And she said there were big variations in the picture across the country.
“The Scottish Government must invest more money and work to close that gap, and end the postcode lottery across Scotland.”
Health charity Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has launched a petition calling on the Scottish Government to invest in a “Right to Rehab”, ensuring there is universal and equal access to rehabilitation programmes.
Ms Dugdale raised the issue in parliament and Heath Secretary Jeane Freeman said she was having discussions with the charity.
Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “We believe that people with chest, heart and stroke conditions in Scotland should have a universal and equal right to rehab.
“It’s not just medical treatment that people need, they need rehabilitation to live their lives well. The provision of pulmonary rehab in particular is very patchy in Scotland. This is an essential part of care that prevents hospital admission and reduces hospital stays.”
She said concrete action was needed quickly. “People need help to rebuild their lives now. This is a matter of life and health.”
Tracey Gillies, NHS Lothian medical director, said: “Our services are reviewed regularly to make sure that we are investing in the correct areas to improve access and capacity for those seeking support across the region. Self-management plays a large part in keeping the condition under control and we work closely with our health and social care partnerships to provide the support needed.
“COPD is a common incurable condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who have been frequently exposed to tobacco; many of whom are unaware they have the condition. Raising the awareness of COPD is important and as a result of our engagement events in recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of people looking for support from us.”