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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 Maree Todd MSP visited the CHSS Lung at Heart group in Nairn, to see in action one of their exercise classes for people who are living with long-term health conditions, where she heard from members about their experiences.
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 ELCRG.
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 Highland there are an estimated 6,000 people living with COPD, around 3,500 people who would benefit from PR, but there are only 500 places per year available. 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
(L-R) Maree Todd MSP, Maureen Wilson, Charlotte Carr and Pat Henderson. Maree Todd chats with members of Lung at Heart.
Maureen Wilson and Charlotte Carr, who attend the group in Nairn, spoke of their conditions and experience of living with them. They have found that PR has benefitted them both physically and emotionally. Attending the group has made a huge difference to their lives, improving their fitness, health and confidence.
Pat Henderson, the group organiser, outlined the difficulties around referrals to the group. Pat has been doing a lot of work with the local GP practice to raise awareness about PR and to increase GP referrals. This has proved successful so far with a new member joined the group after seeing a poster in the GP practice.
Maree Todd, MSP, said, “It was a pleasure to visit the Lung at Heart group in Nairn and hear first-hand just how important it is to those living with COPD as well as other chronic illnesses. I heard just how much folk enjoy the social side of it, and how the exercise boosts their confidence as well as helping them to stay healthy. Nearly everyone I spoke to had come to the group by a different route and all were keen to recommend it to others which is a really good sign. It would be great to see groups like this flourishing all over the Highlands and Islands.”
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.”
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 www.chss.org.uk/lungrehab