Call for greater support for people to self-manage lung disease

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This week’s short debate was lead by John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) on lung diseases caused by smoking.

Wales’ third biggest killer

Lung diseases are the third biggest killer of people in Wales, but waiting times for pulmonary rehabilitation can be up to 77 weeks in some parts of the country. John believes funding should be redirected away from inhaler-based treatments to more cost-effective treatments.

“We need to see greater investment in initiatives to reduce the risk of patients needing unnecessary, avoidable and costly hospital admissions, and this should include patient rescue packs that include a course of antibiotics and corticosteroid tablets to keep at home and self-manage with the advice and encouragement involved. And that would enable a prompt response to symptoms of an exacerbation.”
– John Griffiths AM

In Newport, a lottery-funded scheme has set up a seven-week training and exercise programme for residents suffering from COPD. As a result, 42% of those who took part had a better understanding of what their condition means and many have adopted healthier lifestyles as a result.

There were causes other than smoking which need to be tackled as a matter of urgency too, including air pollution, while people with COPD are at increased risk of being hospitalised due to flu – yet uptake of flu vaccines has been disappointingly low.

Smoking cessation services will remain important

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), said there was a need to ensure people were directed to the most appropriate service – including social prescribing – though there remain challenges in terms of access and waiting times.

“We know that many people don’t actually act on their referral to pulmonary rehab, given the length of time that it can take to access and the time demands it places on people. A significant number of people don’t complete the course, which can last six to eight weeks before people step down into a less intense level of support.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

Smoking is still linked to 5,000 deaths in Wales each year and costs the Welsh NHS £300million. Welsh Government-backed support to help smokers quit will remain an important part of lung health strategies. In Aneurin Bevan Health Board (south-east Wales), all smokers in pulmonary rehab are referred to the Help Me Quit service and specially-trained nurses support them – something the Minister picked out as an example of good practice.