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Understanding breathlessness

Dr Noel Baxter on how the Taskforce for Lung Health can help

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dr Noel Baxter of Primary Care Respiratory Society–UK shares how his expertise is feeding in to the Taskforce for Lung Health.

The Taskforce for Lung Health has brought together a unified voice of patients, carers and health professionals. As a Taskforce we’re using our voice to highlight the importance of lung health throughout all stages of life as we develop the five-year plan for improving lung health in England. As an expert on breathlessness I’m ensuring my experience of working with patients with the condition is feeding in to the Taskforce work. 

Developing and implementing better guidelines for diagnosing and treating breathlessness will ensure healthcare staff are better equipped to recognise and manage this condition.
Dr Noel Baxter

I have worked a lot on breathlessness during my recent career, focusing on how best to detect and treat it, as well as how to best treat and support patients with COPD. Breathlessness is surprisingly common; we know that 1 in 10 adults are experiencing daily breathlessness that doesn’t go away, defined as every day for at least 3 months and this increases to over 3 in 10 older people. The condition can be a very frightening symptom for people and one which is linked to anxiety and depression, lack of exercise and increased hospitalisation.

Too often I meet people who find out too late that their breathlessness is serious. Because the breathlessness symptom is a predictor of ill-health and even early death, when people are diagnosed earlier patient outcomes can be significantly improved. 

We need a much better understanding of what breathlessness is and why it is important that people tell their doctor about their symptoms. Developing and implementing better guidelines for diagnosing and treating symptoms will ensure healthcare staff are better equipped to recognise and manage this condition. This would be a huge step forward in tackling lung disease.

It is so important that professionals in the lung health field submit evidence in their area of interest, particularly where there is less awareness of the issues.
Dr Noel Baxter

It’s clear we need to use the evidence available to change policy and practice across the country – and this is where the Taskforce has the power to really make a difference. The Taskforce opened the first stage of its call for evidence last month where both professionals and members of the public can submit evidence on prevention and diagnosis of lung disease to shape the five-year plan. It is so important that professionals in the lung health field submit evidence in their area of interest, particularly where there is less awareness of the issues.

As a population we are living longer and our lungs need to last a long time. We need to ensure every child born starts with as healthy lungs as possible and that we protect people’s lungs as they age. The Taskforce for Lung Health is bringing together the respiratory sector to bring about this change.

 

The first Taskforce call out is for evidence linked to the prevention and diagnosis of lung disease. This will run from 14th February and throughout March 2018. You can find out more about the Taskforce for Lung Health, including its guidance notes for evidence submissions, by visiting www.blf.org.uk/taskforce-consultation.

Contributors to the Taskforce for Lung Health

The Taskforce comprises Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care, Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, Asthma UK, British Geriatrics Society, British Lung Foundation, British Thoracic Society, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Primary Care Respiratory Society, Public Health England, Respiratory Futures, RightCare, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Physicians, and Royal College of Surgeons.