Be­ing out of breath doesn’t mean you have to give up on hav­ing a great life

To­day is World COPD Day, and if you don’t know what that means, you’re not alone. Kath Byrne ex­plains all

The Scotsman - - Friends Of The Scotsman -

oday is World COPD Day – not a date marked in many peo­ple’s cal­en­dars. Un­like World Stroke Day, or World Heart Day, COPD isn’t a fa­mil­iar dis­ease to ev­ery­one. But more than 129,000 peo­ple in Scot­land are di­ag­nosed with Chronic Ob­struc­tive Pul­monary Dis­ease, and many more re­main un­di­ag­nosed and are miss­ing out on the treat­ment they need. COPD isn’t cur­able, and with­out proper treat­ment and sup­port it has a huge ef­fect on peo­ple’s qual­ity of life. Symp­toms such as breath­less­ness and fa­tigue mean the most sim­ple daily tasks can be­come dif­fi­cult, leav­ing peo­ple trapped in their own homes.

Scot­land has one of the poor­est records of lung dis­ease in the UK and Europe, with some of the worst preva­lence rates, and high mor­tal­ity rates. The last­ing im­pact of heavy in­dus­try in some ar­eas re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor, and com­mu­ni­ties with greater so­cial de­pri­va­tion have higher rates of lung dis­ease. As a re­sult, co pd cur­rently ac­counts for the most vis­its to Ac­ci­dent and Emer­gency de­part­ments in Scot­land, and is re­spon­si­ble for over 120,000 emer­gency bed days each year.

But one of the cheap­est and most ef­fec­tive treat­ments for COPD isn’t al­ways avail­able in Scot­land. If this was a drug there would be a na­tional scan­dal about the “post­code lot­tery” of be­ing able to ac­cess it. If you live in Dunbar, you can ac­cess it be­cause you live in East Loth­ian, but a few miles down the road in Eye­mouth, you won’t – be­cause it’s not avail­able in the Borders.

This treat­ment isn’t a drug, though – it’s a pro­gramme of sup­port de­liv­ered by a range of health pro­fes­sion­als called Pul­monary Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion – or PR. This com­bines ad­vice, in­for­ma­tion, sup­port and phys­i­cal ex­er­cise to en­able peo­ple to keep as healthy as they are able when liv­ing with a lung dis­ease such as COPD. With PR, peo­ple are able to man­age symp­toms such as breath­less­ness, which of­ten leave peo­ple in fear of be­ing ac­tive, which in turn makes their COPD worse. With­out break­ing that cy­cle, peo­ple with COPD are at risk of iso­la­tion, less likely to live full lives and more likely to be read­mit­ted to hospi­tal.

Pul­monary Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion has been con­clu­sively proven through many re­search tri­als to be a highly ef­fec­tive treat­ment. And it saves money when com­pared with the cost of re­peated GP vis­its and time spent in hospi­tal.

But the NHS is un­der so much fi­nan­cial pres­sure, and deal­ing with the chal­lenges of in­te­grat­ing with so­cial care, that we see re­sources are of­ten pri­ori­tised to­wards pro­vid­ing acute care to peo­ple, not re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion which will help them stay away from the NHS in the long-term.

Liv­ing with life­long health con­di­tions like COPD means peo­ple need on­go­ing sup­port, not quick fixes. For those peo­ple who are able to ac­cess re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, we know the ben­e­fits can be lost if they aren’t able to keep ac­tive. Char­i­ties like Chest Heart & Stroke Scot­land are a key part of pro­vid­ing sup­port where it’s needed, within com­mu­ni­ties. We have vol­un­teer-led groups af­fil­i­ated to us across the whole of the coun­try, many of which pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to be ac­tive, and more im­por­tantly, pro­vide a so­cial and fun el­e­ment too, which means peo­ple want to keep com­ing back. Through th­ese groups some 1,400 peo­ple re­main ac­tive.

Lung dis­ease, like COPD, re­mains the Cin­derella of health con­di­tions in Scot­land – un­like heart dis­ease and stroke there hasn’t been huge in­vest­ment at a na­tional, gov­ern­ment and NHS level in tack­ling it strate­gi­cally. To­gether with our part­ners the Bri­tish Lung Foun­da­tion, Chest Heart Stroke Scot­land is work­ing to ad­dress this, rais­ing its pro­file with our politi­cians. As a re­sult, at Par­lia­ment this week there’s been both a de­bate on World COPD Day, and an evening re­cep­tion to give MSPS the op­portu- nity to meet peo­ple liv­ing with COPD, and ex­pe­ri­ence for them­selves what it’s like to live with symp­toms such as se­vere breath­less­ness. We need to make sure that the voice of peo­ple liv­ing with lung dis­ease is heard. The lucky ones tell us that Pul­monary Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion has given them their

lives back, and that lo­cal com­mu­nity sup­port has sus­tained them. We need to en­sure ev­ery­one who needs it gets the same ben­e­fits, not just the for­tu­nate few.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scot­land’s vi­sion is a Scot­land where ev­ery­one liv­ing with chest, heart and stroke con­di­tions is sup­ported to shape their fu­ture and live the life they want to lead. Our Freep­hone Ad­vice Line is avail­able Mon­day-fri­day for sup­port and in­for­ma­tion on chest, heart and stroke – call 0808 801 0899 free from land­lines and mo­biles. Kath Byrne, pol­icy man­ager at CHSS

0 David Ack­ers, who is on the COPD pro­gramme, ex­er­cises on a tread­mill at Leith

Com­mu­nity Treat­ment Cen­tre as part of his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion

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