The British Lung Foundation (BLF) in Scotland is urging health authorities not to abandon lung disease sufferers because of budget cuts. The UK-wide charity, which supports everyone affected by lung disease, is concerned that care standards for those with a respiratory condition have still to be met in many parts of the country.
The call comes after the Scottish government launched its new standards of care policy earlier this year. The BLF wants to ensure that the plans to create a ‘gold star service’ for lung disease patients are not under threat.
Lung diseases, like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an umbrella term for chronic bronchitis and emphysema, kills more people than breast, bowel or prostate cancer. Rates of COPD is rising fast due to smoking and Scotland’s heavy industrial past.
Ex-smoker Hilda Hill was diagnosed with COPD four years ago. She said: “My mouth started to swell up and I was rushed into hospital. You can’t breathe. Your chest is tight. It really frightened me. I wasn’t well, I was in hospital for a fortnight.”
Hilda was referred to a Pulmonary Rehabilitation service in Dumfries and Galloway. Specialist physiotherapists work with COPD sufferers to improve their lung function through gentle exercise.
Dr James Cant, head of the British Lung Foundation Scotland, is concerned that with cuts on the way, health boards will continue to ignore Pulmonary Rehabilitation. He says that would be a false economy – “This service delivers value for money twice over.
“It’s a win for the people themselves because it gives them a greater sense of freedom, and it’s a huge win for the NHS because this is the single most important thing we can do to help people with lung conditions stay out of hospital, but for many generations respiratory medicine has been a Cinderella service.”
In March, the Scottish government published new standards of care for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which recommended this kind of rehabilitation class for all sufferers. It would have resulted in the best COPD service in the UK, but so far many health boards have failed to implement it.
Chronic lung disease is the second most common reason for admission to accident and emergency in Scotland. Since attending the Pulmonary Rehabilitation classes, Hilda Hill has been admitted to hospital for emegency care only once.
Dr Cant continues: “This should be the standard across Scotland now. What we have here in Dumfries and Galloway is an example of what happens when it’s done incredibly well.
“The voluntary sector, central government, local government and health boards need to work together to make sure as many places as possible around Scotland have this quality of pulmonary rehab.”
Find out more about BLF Scotland.