To mark World COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Day, we have spoken to Louise Edis, Respiratory Physiotherapist part of the Integrated Respiratory Team at King’s. Louise explains more…
“COPD is a treatable lung condition predominantly caused by smoking. Symptoms may include breathlessness, phlegm production and a reduction in functional capacity. Although there is no cure, we aim to manage the condition through medication (usually in the form of inhalers), exercise and stopping smoking.
“Undiagnosed COPD remains an international problem. In 2016, there were an estimated 9,000 undiagnosed cases of COPD within Lambeth and Southwark alone. Increased awareness of the condition can lead to early action and can significantly reduce the impact it has on patients’ lives. But prevention is better than cure, and people are four times more likely to stop smoking if they get support. It is never too late to quit.
“The Integrated Respiratory Team at King’s encompass many disciplines including specialist doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and tobacco dependence specialists. We review patients on the wards, in clinics – both virtually and face to face – and complete home visits, as well as running the pulmonary rehabilitation service for the area. We are in frequent contact with local GPs and other community services. Around 80% of people with COPD have at least one other long-term condition so a holistic approach is key.
“We have adapted the way with work with patients in response to the pandemic, including the development of a Befriending Service. Many of our patients living with long-term conditions are more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 and most of them were advised to self-isolate. As social isolation impacts both your mental and physical health, we wanted to ensure we reached people during the pandemic so that they felt supported.
“Befriending has a positive impact on social isolation so we trained three students from the Mental Health Studies master’s programme at King’s College London, in the principles of befriending. These include forming supportive relationships and encouraging positive behaviours to the befriended. As part of the service, patients received a call once a week from one of our student volunteers to offer a friendly ear in a time of need. Following the calls, students had supervision sessions with a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT), social support worker, and me to problem solve any issues or concerns that came up during the conversations with patients. The service lasted for 17 weeks, involved 30 participants and included more than 250 phone calls.
“My top tip to prevent COPD is to stop smoking. This can slow the progression of the disease and allow a wide range of treatments to work more effectively. Those with COPD should get the flu vaccines. Viral infections can be more severe for those with a lung condition so it’s important to protect yourself with the annual flu jab. Exercise is also very important for people with COPD as loss of fitness will worsen any respiratory symptoms.”
If you have COPD and want help to stop smoking visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree. For support to increase your exercise levels you can ask your GP to refer you to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Service at King’s.