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News > Press Releases > CHSS & Mairi Gougeon MSP highlight the postcode lottery of support for people living with lung disease

CHSS & Mairi Gougeon MSP highlight the postcode lottery of support for people living with lung disease

A new report released by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) highlights that many people in Scotland who are living with lung disease are not receiving the support that they need. Last week Mairi Gougeon MSP for Angus North & Mearns visited the Forfar Airways Group, to see and hear them in action where she heard from members about their experiences of living with long-term lung conditions.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) is one of the most effective ways to help people living with lung conditions such as COPD, and combines physical exercise with education, advice and support. Through regular group activities, PR builds people’s confidence in their ability to get active, live as independently as they can, and helps their overall health and wellbeing.  Once rehab programmes are completed, it’s vital that people can then keep physically active, with the support of local CHSS groups like Forfar Airways.

Professor James Chalmers University of Dundee, Maureen Downie Chairperson Arbroath COPD group, Mairi Gougeon MSP, Kath Byrne CHSS and Ian Baxter Chair Forfar Airways

L-R Professor James Chalmers University of Dundee, Maureen Downie Chairperson Arbroath COPD group, Mairi Gougeon MSP, Kath Byrne CHSS and Ian Baxter Chair Forfar Airways

In Scotland, people living with long-term lung conditions are amongst the biggest users of the health services, with over 129,000 people diagnosed with COPD. There are over 19,000 hospital admissions each year due to COPD, and 129,300 bed days accountable to the disease.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s report finds that in Tayside around 10,000 are living with COPD, about 5,000 would benefit from PR, but there’s only space for 700. The availability of PR courses is a postcode lottery. In some areas you can get on a course within two weeks – in other areas the average wait for a place is over half a year.

Ian Baxter, Chair of Forfar Airways Group, said “There is no doubt that pulmonary rehabilitation helped to turn my life around. I learnt more about my condition and how to cope with it. The combination of exercise, education and support was fantastic. Being part of the group means I get a huge boost out of attending and it’s great to know I’m helping others and giving them a sense of purpose and belonging.”

Professor James Chalmers, highlighted that Pulmonary Rehab is clinically proven to be hugely effective, so much so that experts agree that no further research is needed into the benefits.

“If there was a drug available that was as effective as Pulmonary Rehabilitation, yet only a fraction of people were receiving it, it would be a national scandal.”

Mairi Gougeon, MSP, said, “I left the Forfar COPD Group meeting feeling uplifted. There is boundless enthusiasm from the group leader Ian and superb participation from all the group members.”

“We are incredibly fortunate to have such a well-run group in Angus to complement the other groups that run across the county because I know there are many areas across Scotland that have little or no support for pulmonary rehabilitation.”

“There is a great deal of research to suggest that pulmonary rehab can make a big difference to lung disease sufferers and I saw first-hand why this is the case. It can make significant difference to quality of life and fitness and improve some of the symptoms such as breathlessness, coughing and fatigue. I’m fully supportive of CHSS’s campaign to highlight the benefits of pulmonary rehab.”

Kath Byrne, Policy Manager at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland said:  “Our new report shows that more needs to be done by the Scottish Government and Health Boards to make sure that everyone who needs Pulmonary Rehabilitation 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 Pulmonary Rehab 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.”

“Forfar benefits from excellent PR and support in Angus – but many more areas in Scotland do not have this support available. Forfar Airways have been helping us to campaign about the need for more support for people living with COPD and other conditions, to help them stay as healthy as possible. In November Parliament will be debating Scotland’s lung health, and the group alongside CHSS will continue their efforts to raise the profile of PR.”

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland are asking people to write to their MSPs and local councillors about their experiences of living with lung disease, asking them to support their campaign.

To read the full report on PR, or to join the CHSS campaign for more support for people with lung disease visit

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