Specialist nurses working in primary care are being encouraged to promote a campaign urging patients not to “ignore breathlessness”, as part of efforts to raise awareness of lung disease.
The British Lung Foundation is asking specialist respiratory nurses to promote the campaign to a wider audience of practice nurses and GPs, who may come into contact with patients experiencing breathlessness, but do not have a special expertise in lung health.
“Primary care clinicians have a vital role to play in patient education and the early diagnosis of respiratory conditions”
The charity wants to increase awareness among healthcare professionals and share its wider public health message about undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
It highlighted that primary care clinicians had an “important role to play” in patient education and the early diagnosis of respiratory conditions.
Once a diagnosis has been made they ensure patients have the information they need to self-manage their illness and access to pulmonary rehabilitation, where appropriate, it noted.
Making sure patients always have the medication they need and are able to use their inhaler correctly is also a vital part of their job, added the charity.
It said the moves announced today were part of efforts to “step up” its Listen to your Lungs campaign to find the millions of people the charity predicts were living with undiagnosed lung disease.
“Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing irreversible lung damage”
The year-long campaign, launched in July 2016, is intended to increase awareness with the public that breathlessness can be a symptom of serious illness, including lung disease, cardiac problems and cancers.
It also encourages people to visit their GP if they are suddenly feeling out of breath doing everyday tasks, and to take the charity’s online interactive breath test, if they often felt short of breath.
In addition, the foundation has written to GPs advising them of the campaign and provided patient support materials.
So far the campaign has seen over 200,000 people taking its test, said the charity, adding that 65% of people who completed it have been advised to visit their GP and 33% have actually visited a doctor – suggesting that potentially 17,000 people have been diagnosed with a lung condition.
Now, with advertising campaigns concentrated in Newcastle and Glasgow throughout February, and Facebook advertising, the charity said it hoped to double the 200,000 figure.
It noted that people living in Glasgow were 45% more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than any other part of Scotland, and that people living in Newcastle were 40% more likely to die from COPD and 80% more likely to be admitted with COPD, compared to the UK average.
Debbie Roots, a cardiorespiratory nurse consultant representing the British Lung Foundation, said: “With more than two million people living with an undiagnosed lung condition in the UK, primary care professionals must play their part in raising awareness of the need for early diagnosis and treatment.
“Primary care clinicians have a vital role to play in patient education and the early diagnosis of respiratory conditions,” she said. “They are the first people to see the patients.
Nurses urged to help find undiagnosed cases of lung disease
“Respiratory nurse specialists have a clinical and consultative job to do in supporting patients with a lung condition. Planning care, they make sure patients always have the medication they need and are able to use their inhalers correctly and have access to pulmonary rehab,” said Ms Roots.
She added: “Many respiratory services now are integrated across primary and secondary care ensuring a better patient pathway and improved communication. It also strengthens the link between the hospital and the community.”
Dr Penny Woods, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing irreversible lung damage.
“We want the people in the UK who may have a lung disease but do not have a diagnosis - who feel breathless on a daily basis – not to dismiss it,” she said. “The more people we can encourage to talk about lung disease the better.”