A NEW scheme for lung disease sufferers in East Lancs has cut hospital attendances by 85 per cent in eight months.

By combining early intervention with improved follow-up care, exercise classes and peer-support groups, Blackburn with Darwen Community Respiratory Service has seen hospital admissions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), fall from 81 per 100 people to 12 per 100.

The new service, run by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, combines the community nursing team and a rehab service.

Will Sullivan, of the pulmonary rehabilitation service, said breathlessness is not just a part of growing older.

He said: “Usually people present at the doctors two or three times before they get so bad they need to be admitted to hospital.”

He said that after hospitalisation, it can take three or four months before they’re well again.

Under the new scheme patients with symptoms who go to their GP are given follow-up checks from a community matron for four weeks, and once diagnosed, are provided with an ‘emergency pack’ of steriods and antibiotics to stop a severe flare up or ‘lung attack’.

The service is also encouraging the formation of Breatheasy social groups for COPD sufferers to support one another.

Currently, 3,500 people in Blackburn with Darwen have been diagnosed with COPD, with 1,000 more undiagnosed. In 80 per cent of cases of COPD the patient is or has been a smoker.

Paul Riley, 69, of Blackburn, was diagnosed with COPD four years ago. He is an active member of the Blackburn with Darwen Breatheasy Group and is supported by the Community Respiratory Service. He was full of praise for the new scheme and added: “Also, having the emergency pack of drugs for a flare up means that I have avoided going into hospital four times this year.

“You can get on with having a more normal life, and not worry about things like what might happen if you’re feeling unwell on holiday.”

As well as aiding the patient, reducing hospital admissions also saves money. An average four to six night stay in hospital for a COPD patient costs the NHS in the region of £2,100.