Lindsay Welch is the Integrated COPD Team Lead; Solent NHS Trust and UHS NHS Foundation Trust
COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a preventable disease and is one of the world’s biggest killers – it causes a narrowing of the breathing tubes and air sacs in our chest and lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen we can get into our bodies. There are several causes, air pollution and exposure to dust, but the main culprit is smoking. It is estimated that over three million people with COPD in the UK but only a quarter of those are diagnosed
The everyday management of a long-term condition is almost never done by individuals in isolation from others. The networks of relationships around people may include family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, health professionals and even pets all of who play an important role in the management of long-term conditions. This is through, for example, their knowledge, support, help with accessing services, resources and valued activities.
There comes a point in everyone’s life when they get news that changes their life…of course it’s not always bad. Think “you’ve got the all clear” or “you’re going to have a baby”.
But what if that’s not so good. “You have diabetes” or “you have developed COPD”. In those cases firstly you might ask the doctor or nurse- “what can you do?” and “how is it going to affect me?”
NHS clinical commissioning groups across the UK are all focused on improving patient care while facing the pressures of an aging population, increasing volumes of patients with multiple complex health problems and the stark political reality of the need to cut costs.
The complexity of these decisions and how to improve care is often enormously underestimated in the popular media. Take for example, the waiting time performance of accident and emergency (A&E) departments in the UK.
Improving the network of support for people with long term conditions is a more sustainable way to help than appealing to them to change their behaviour. Connections between people often encourage action and the use of the resources around them in a more meaningful way in their everyday lives.
At CLAHRC Wessex our flagship project is the implementation, across the region, of GENIE a web-based tool which is designed to assess and develop the support networks of people with long-term conditions. People can map their support networks and state their preferences and needs in order to link them to local organisations for health and well-being support.