People living with COPD benefit from new HSE supports

HSE Press Release

Wednesday, 15 November 2023

People living with COPD benefit from new HSE supports

  • Patients now referred by GP to integrated respiratory service locally - a more flexible and efficient service

This World COPD Day (Wednesday, 15 November),  the HSE is highlighting new supports and developments in care for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a common, preventable and treatable disease that is characterised by ongoing breathing difficulties, usually caused by significant exposure to noxious particles or gases. Major risk factors for developing COPD are tobacco smoking or exposure to occupational, outdoor and indoor air pollution.

GPs can now refer people with COPD, or asthma, to an integrated respiratory service within an Integrated Care Hub situated in the community. The specialist respiratory team in the hub provides diagnostic tests, including direct GP access to spirometry, and supports the management of the condition through a suite of interventions including pulmonary rehabilitation.

More complex cases referred this way can also be seen within the acute hospital affiliated with the integrated care hub. A Respiratory Integrated Care Consultant provides a continuum of care between the integrated care hub and the acute hospital. This means that people with COPD receive the ‘Right Care’ in the ‘Right Place’ at the ‘Right Time’ and they can be seen earlier. It is actively reducing waiting times and is shifting care away from acute hospitals.

Dr Stanley Miller, National Clinical Lead Respiratory, HSE, said: “There has been significant progress in providing care and support for people with COPD allowing them to be managed by Integrated Respiratory Teams in a community setting, away from our acute hospitals, and closer to where they live. Respiratory integrated care consultants provide a continuum of care between the integrated care hubs and their affiliated acute hospitals. Specialist multidisciplinary respiratory teams are already in place in our integrated care hubs across the country supporting people to self-manage their condition and providing specialist respiratory care. This new care pathway is delivering a more flexible and efficient service, that is responsive to the needs of our COPD patients.”

The HSE is also funding 42 community support groups which are being established by COPD Support Ireland. The groups will provide ongoing exercise and education classes in the community, supporting people to self-manage their COPD.

Commenting on the new support groups, Joan Johnston, General Manager, COPD Support Ireland, said: “This is an important initiative to support people in managing their COPD. 14 of the groups have been funded to date and we hope to provide more support groups in 2024. The service provides a range of supports for people with COPD to manage their condition and we have received positive feedback from people who attend.”

A Wexford COPD support and exercise group member spoke highly of the support programme: “Living with a debilitating condition can be a lonely and very worrying place to be. Depression is not uncommon. Having a community of fellow sufferers to meet up with once a week (or more) provides an immeasurable sense of belonging and solidarity. Exchanging stories, “chewing the beef”, having a good laugh, and just providing each other with simple words of encouragement and care go a long, long way to boosting one’s confidence and self-esteem."

There are 380,000 people living with COPD in Ireland but only around a third of people have been diagnosed with the condition. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough with sputum production, and wheeze. Around 40% of the respiratory waiting list relates to COPD and asthma referrals. The new respiratory care pathways are supported by both Modernised Care Pathways and the Enhanced Community Care (ECC) programme.

Dr Miller said: “COPD is a common condition that mainly affects people who smoke or used to smoke. One of the single best things people can do to prevent COPD is to stop smoking and this includes e-cigarettes.”

Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain, National Clinical Director, Integrated Care, HSEsaid: “Our National Clinical Programme for Respiratory is supporting patients with COPD and asthma by implementing Integrated models of care at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, efficient and as close to home as possible. This will ensure a patient-centred approach for the prevention, early detection, slowing of disease progression, and the provision of optimal management for people with COPD and asthma.”

Last updated on: 15 / 11 / 2023