World COPD Day: Why I'm campaigning in parliament
Stephen McPartland MP is campaigning for better care for people affected by COPD.
In the past year, I've learned a lot about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). What surprised me most is that it affects around 3 million people in the UK - and over 2 million of those are undiagnosed - yet hardly anyone’s heard of it.
I myself have asthma, and as a new MP in 2010 I was keen to do what I could to raise respiratory health up the political agenda. This led to me founding the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Respiratory Health.
APPGs are a good way to bring parliamentarians together on a particular issue. They are informal, cross-party groups and consist of backbench MPs and Peers interested in a particular topic. Since the launch of the group, over 70 of my colleagues have signed up; that’s 1 in 9 MPs.
We decided that the first priority for the group was to look closely at respiratory deaths in England and what could be done to prevent them. We held a year-long inquiry including oral evidence sessions where people could come and talk about their experience, together with a call for written evidence.
The oral evidence sessions were a chance to hear directly from people affected by lung conditions as well as the health care and research experts working in the field.
The thing I remember most clearly is how difficult this condition can be for loved ones to deal with as well as the person with COPD. We also looked at what could be done to better support people with COPD.
Many people told us how pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) programmes helped them to improve their mobility and quality of life. Yet, this simple and essential service is not provided everywhere and for those that are able to access PR, little is available in terms of specialist exercise after this ends. It’s such a simple thing, yet it could make such a significant difference to people’s lives and wellbeing.
Our report was published in parliament earlier this year. It marks a milestone in recognising the support needed for people with COPD and the impact this condition has.
World COPD Day 2014 will be taking place on Wednesday 19 November. It provides an opportunity to reflect not just on how far we've come, but also the work we still have to do.
For my part, I will continue to champion this cause in parliament, pushing for action to be taken on all of the recommendations in our report to improve care for respiratory patients.
For World COPD Day we're celebrating the ways that people can live well with COPD through good self-management. Help us to continue our work - donate to our COPD appeal.