Serious shortage of help for people with lung conditions

Thousands do not receive rehab for pulmonary disease
Thousands do not receive rehab for pulmonary disease
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A REPORT from a leading charity has revealed a severe lack of rehabilitation services for thousands of people in the Lothians who are living with a serious lung condition.

The study conducted by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland found that NHS Lothian only has capacity for 1,144 people to receive a Pulmonary Rehabilitation programme but there are currently 9,478 awaiting treatment.

This means only 12 per cent of those suffering with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and a host of other lung conditions like asthma and bronchiectasis are getting the help they need.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) combines physical exercise with education, advice and support for people living with a lung disease. It helps improve fitness and strength as well as support with learning to control symptoms such as breathlessness.

Kate Byrne, Policy Manager at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland called on the Scottish Government and health boards to do more.

She added: “Our new report shows that more needs to be done by the Scottish Government and Health Boards to make sure that everyone who needs PR gets access to it.

“We are calling for local action plans to be developed, national requirements put in place, and a target of doubling the number of places available on PR programmes.

“Awareness needs to be raised about the benefits of PR. People are often not being referred to PR services by health professionals, and it can also be difficult to attend a course of PR.

“Many people with long-term lung conditions are anxious about exercise because they are concerned about worsening their breathlessness and fatigue.

“They need support and encouragement to attend, and to be told about the benefits of PR.”

At present people living with a long-term lung condition are amongst the biggest users of health services in Scotland with over 129,000 people diagnosed with COPD.

Miles Briggs, Lothian MSP and Shadow Health Secretary, said: “It is concerning that Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has identified that almost 9,500 people living with COPD and other lung conditions in Lothian would benefit from PR but that NHS Lothian only has the capacity to provide this to just over 1,000 patients.

“With lung related conditions like COPD accounting for such a significant number of admissions to hospital, investment in PR should be seen as an important preventative health spend which can help ease the pressure on acute NHS services in Lothian.”

Tracey Gillies, NHS Lothian Medical Director, said: “We are committed to ensuring patients with COPD get the treatment they need, which is why we have invested more to improve our service and have carried out several campaigns and engagement events to raise awareness of this condition and treatment we can provide. We have found people with this condition often do not seek help, or are unaware of the help available – the result of our engagement events, has been an increase in the number of patients seeking help.”