Health Matters by Jenny Hinchliffe, Head of Clinical Services for the South at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust
An estimated three million people have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the UK, and most people are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s.
Some of you might not have heard of COPD before and many of you won’t realise a specialist respiratory team work across Lincolnshire to support patients to make living with the condition more manageable.
COPD is a long-term lung condition which makes breathing difficult and is caused predominantly by smoking or breathing in other harmful substances. COPD is a broad term that covers several lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The majority of people living with COPD will have symptoms of breathlessness of varying degrees.
No two people are the same and some people cope with their breathlessness with very little support from any health services, however, for many people living with COPD is a disabling and exhausting experience because their breathlessness makes all aspects of daily living very hard work.
The decision about which medicines to use depends on how severe the COPD is, how it is affecting everyday life and whether the person has a lot of exacerbations of their condition (a worsening of symptoms, very often caused by a chest infection). The treatments available for COPD help people to breathe more easily but they don’t repair the damage to the lungs.
Stopping smoking is extremely important if you have COPD to prevent further and ongoing damage to the lungs. Your GP, practice nurse, respiratory team or a specialist advisor from the Phoenix NHS Stop Smoking Service will all be able to offer you support and help to do this. Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy will greatly increase your chance of quitting.
The specialist respiratory team at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) provide a number of services specifically tailored to supporting patients with COPD.
These services include:
* Specialist COPD nurses who support when symptoms get worse, medicines management and all aspects of living with COPD, especially keeping well and avoiding going into hospital.
The nurses also support patients after discharge from hospital to ensure they make a good recovery.
* Pulmonary Rehabilitation – a 10-week programme of exercise which improves patients’ breathing control, fitness and health related quality of life. The sessions also include education which teaches patients how to manage their condition.
* Adult Home Oxygen Assessment Service – some patients may have low oxygen levels and require oxygen therapy at home. It is important that patients are fully assessed for this therapy and then reviewed regularly.
* Respiratory Physiotherapists will visit patients at home who need support with breathing control, coughing and clearing sputum from their chests.
If you have COPD and think you may benefit from one of these services please contact your GP or practice nurse who will be able to refer you if they think it will help you.
If you would like more information or support to quit smoking, contact the Phoenix NHS Stop Smoking Service for free, confidential and non-judgemental advice on 0800 840 1533.