Rehab plea for sufferers after sharp rise in lung disease

Jock Shiells with Arlenee Rowlins and Jimmy Landals at the Eyemouth Leisure Centre. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Jock Shiells with Arlenee Rowlins and Jimmy Landals at the Eyemouth Leisure Centre. Picture: Stewart Attwood

New figures reveal a huge rise in the number of Scottish people now living with incurable lung disease.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) is calling on the Scottish Government to back significant reform to the way those with lung conditions access rehabilitation and support. The charity says rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has increased by 26 per cent since 2011.

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In 2018-19 NHS Scotland figures show that 139,187 people were diagnosed with COPD – compared with 110,187 people diagnosed in 2011-12 – a difference of 29,000.

CHSS say that thousands of Scots are missing out on vital support such as Pulmonary Rehabilitation – and that the NHS is also missing out on significant savings as result.

It has drawn up an action plan to address the problem and is calling for the Scottish Government’s upcoming Respiratory Care Action Plan to commit to introducing a Right to Pulmonary Rehab in Scotland, which would offer equal access to everyone who needs the programme of exercise and advice, as well as improving access to long-term community support which makes sure people do not lose the benefits of rehab programmes.

The charity estimates initial costs of such a move would be £1.7m in the first year – but could potentially save the health service £9.8m by the second year.

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “We need to see urgent reform to help people breathe better and live life to the full with COPD. More and more people are living in poor health and struggling to cope with symptoms like breathlessness. Without proper support, everything can be difficult, from returning to work to enjoying time with family and friends. Even leaving the house can be a massive challenge.

“Access to Pulmonary Rehab and follow-up community support is life-changing. It can prevent hospital admissions and halve the time you spend in hospital, so it also saves the NHS money.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are developing the first Respiratory Care Action Plan, which we aim to publish for public consultation this year. It will set out the priorities to support the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of respiratory conditions, including COPD. Access to pulmonary rehabilitation is a key recommendation in clinical guidelines we expect NHS boards to follow.”