How I'm helping the Taskforce as a GP
Dr Noel Baxter from Primary Care Respiratory Society–UK shares how his expertise is feeding in to the Taskforce for Lung Health
The Taskforce for Lung Health has brought together a unified voice of patients, carers and health professionals. We’re using our voice to highlight the importance of lung health throughout all stages of life as we develop a 5-year plan for improving lung health in England.
As an expert on breathlessness, I’m making sure my experience of working with patients is feeding in to the Taskforce’s work.
I have worked a lot on breathlessness during my recent career, focusing on how best to detect and treat breathlessness, as well as how to best treat and support patients with COPD. Breathlessness is surprisingly common.
We know that 1 in 10 adults experience daily breathlessness that doesn’t go away. That means they’re breathless every day for at least 3 months. It increases to over 3 in 10 older people. Breathlessness can be a very frightening experience for people and it’s linked to anxiety and depression, lack of exercise and increased hospitalisation.
Too often I meet people who find out too late that their breathlessness is serious. Because the breathlessness symptom is a predictor of ill-health and even early death, when people are diagnosed earlier, patient outcomes can be significantly improved.
We need a much better understanding of what breathlessness is and why it is important that people tell their doctor about their symptoms.
Developing and implementing better guidelines for diagnosing and treating breathlessness will ensure health care staff are better equipped to recognise and manage this condition. This would be a huge step forward in tackling lung disease.
It’s clear we need to use the evidence available to change policy and practice across the country – and this is where the Taskforce for Lung Health has the power to really make a difference. The first stage of its call for evidence opened last month so professionals and members of the public can submit evidence on prevention and diagnosis of lung disease to shape the 5-year plan.
It’s so important that professionals in the lung health field submit evidence in their area of interest, particularly where there is less awareness about the issues.
It’s absolutely time that something is done to address lung disease. As a population, we’re living longer and our lungs need to last a long time. We need to make sure every child born starts with as healthy lungs as possible and that we protect people’s lungs as they age. The Taskforce for Lung Health is bringing together the respiratory sector to bring about this change.