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Working together for those living with COPD in Wales

This World COPD Day, we’re celebrating the fantastic progress that’s being made in Wales for those living with COPD.

There are currently around 117,000 known cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Wales.

This World COPD Day, we’re celebrating the fantastic progress that’s being made in Wales to make sure people living with COPD get a consistently high level of care. The aim is to create care that’s tailored to a person’s needs, delivered locally, and gives them the confidence to self-manage their condition and maintain a good quality of life.

There have been many great innovative projects and pilots that are reimagining COPD care. Here are just a few examples:

Helping those recently diagnosed with COPD

Dawn Gully - Helping You Help Yourself Co-ordinator, ABUHB

I’m proud to be working on the Helping You, Help Yourself programme, a 3-year lottery-funded project aimed at those who have been newly diagnosed or have mild COPD. A combination of exercise and education, the programme is designed to encourage and enable behaviour change. It gives people who use the service the capability, opportunity and motivation to self-manage their condition, helping them stay independent. Our programme is about giving power back to people who are often overwhelmed by a COPD diagnosis and the flood of information that comes with it.

Since launching in January 2018, we’ve had some great results and have expanded into other areas in South Wales, allowing more people to access the programme.

The outcomes have been extremely positive, with 99% of people involved saying they found the programme useful. The majority of those who completed the programme said they could now walk further and felt better equipped to self-manage their condition.

Our programme is about giving power back to individuals who are often overwhelmed by a COPD diagnosis and the flood of information that comes with it.

Improving access to pulmonary rehabilitation

Nicola Perry-Gower - pulmonary rehabilitions workstream lead, Welsh Respiratory Health Implementation Group (RHIG)​

Evidence suggests that pulmonary rehabilitation, or PR for short, reduces COPD flare ups by 36%. If we referred every eligible person to PR, flare ups would fall by a third. In turn, this would reduce COPD hospital admissions by 13%, halve the length of time spent in hospital for those admitted - saving 106,000 hospital days. We could reduce social care costs and free up GP appointments. When delivered at the right time in the right place by the right people, PR can literally change lives.

PR delivers significant results, but too many are missing out. In Wales, we’re working hard to improve access to PR and to standardise PR services. We hope that one day, anyone with a breathlessness score (MRC Dyspnoea score) of 3 and above will have access to a gold standard multi-professional led PR service, that’s as close to the person’s home as possible.

When delivered at the right time in the right place by the right people, PR can literally change lives.

Helping people keep active with COPD

Claire Hurlin - head of chronic conditions management

I was fortunate to set up a pulmonary rehabilitation service in October 1999 in Singleton Hospital, Swansea and continue to help deliver PR in other areas. Over the years, I started to question why we don’t offer some form of PR to people newly diagnosed with COPD and those who don’t meet the criteria for PR.

In 2015 we trialled a 7-week educational programme for people living with COPD. I then worked with the National Exercise Referral Scheme to provide what we now call COPD+. People with COPD attend a 7-week structured course; they’re assessed and have supported exercise sessions as well. We’ve had great responses from people who’ve attended the course, with some becoming tutors themselves.

This World COPD Day I remain inspired by those who live with COPD, by their resilience and tenacity no matter what.

Help to stop smoking and improving inhaler technique

Victoria Richards-Green - chronic conditions lead pharmacist, ABUHB

We’re always looking for ways to give our patients the very best services we can. Now, we’re trying to make our PR service the best in Wales and to inspire others to do the same. We’ve already piloted a new bespoke stop-smoking service to our PR programme, and we’re rolling this out across the health board. We’ve given people with COPD attending PR an opportunity to stop smoking with expert nurse and pharmacist support.

Next, we’re looking at what we call a pharmacist lead advanced inhaler review, which gives people the chance to discuss their inhalers one-to-one. If people need to make changes, the person with a lung condition and their pharmacist work together to find the inhaler that works best for them.

When we get the inhaler right, the difference is massive.

Improving COPD diagnosis with accurate spirometry

Dr Ramsey Sabit - COPD workstream lead, RHIG

We’ve done several things to improve care for people with COPD. If we’re going to diagnose people accurately, we need accurate testing and interpretation of spirometry. Through funding from the Welsh Respiratory Health Implementation Group, a large number of health care professionals in Wales have now been officially accredited in spirometry.

We’re also in the process of recording educational videos on COPD. These are for health care professionals and patients alike, to empower people with COPD to manage their condition and come to terms with it in the long term.

People with COPD in Wales deserve access to services which help treat and mangage their condition in the long term.

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6 November 2019