The Scottish Government has been urged to roll out an Angus care model across the country to end the “postcode lottery” facing patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Joe FitzPatrick, SNP Minister for public health, sport and well-being, visited the Forfar Airways COPD support group to hear the life-saving benefits enjoyed by those who attend pulmonary rehabilitation courses run by the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership.
He was told of the remarkable improvements to the health of those on the programme, and of the money it saves the NHS from hospital re-admissions and treatment.
Ian Baxter, chairman of the group which is affiliated to Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, told the minister the six-week pulmonary rehabilitation course on offer in Angus was “second to none.”
He said: “It would be good if you could take something positive from what you have learned from your visit today and see if it can be duplicated in every health board area of Scotland.
“There are many places in Scotland with no pulmonary rehabilitation. It is unacceptable there is a postcode lottery for care.
“I have spoken to MPs in the past but nothing is happening – this is our last ditch effort to get something done to get the same level of care for everyone.
“If someone has a long-term condition like COPD, their life should not be half lived. They get a better quality of life if they go on a pulmonary rehabilitation programme.”
Mr Baxter spoke of the high standard of care provided by the respiratory team, based in Arbroath, which is led by respiratory speciality nurse Maureen Fagan.
Those attending the programme undertake twice-weekly seated exercise classes and learn how to self-manage their condition backed-up with the help of health professionals.
Ms Fagan said: “In my 30-year career, I have been involved with this for eight years and this is by far the most rewarding.
“It’s not high tech, patients come along and exercise for six weeks and the difference before and after is astounding.
“They feel less breathless, they feel better and their emotional well-being is off the scale, it is fantastic to see the difference in patients before and after.
“It is suitable for those with COPD, those who have had a stroke, Parkinson’s or cardiac disease.”
Mr FitzPatrick praised those involved in the Angus group for doing a “fantastic job”, stating pulmonary rehabilitation was already part of recommendations for national clinical guidelines.
He said: “It’s already there but clearly, from the evidence I have heard, it’s not been accessible everywhere as well as it clearly is in parts of Angus and we need to do better than that.
“We need to make sure we get to the point where we can improve the support everybody gets.”
“We are in the process of developing a respiratory action plan for the whole of Scotland, this is a good example which can feed into that.
“The Cabinet Secretary has been very clear – there is one NHS in Scotland – so if we have got evidence of best practice then we have to make sure that is what is delivered.”