One primary care trust's award-winning pulmonary rehabilitation service has made a real difference to local people's lives, as David Peat explains

As health professionals, we all have two goals - to improve.the lot of patients, in their own homes or in a community setting, and at the same time to reduce.the workload for our hard-pressed acute trusts. If you win on one front, you automatically win on the other.

I am.proud to say that.East Lancashire primary care trust's.pulmonary rehabilitation service team is a prime example of this double victory. The team has been so successful.that it has.won international recognition for its efforts.

First signs of success

The initial success of a pilot project in the Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale area has helped hundreds of people with breathing difficulties and long-term lung problems, while giving hope to thousands more.

In the area, the prevalence of.smoking is up to 5 per cent higher than.the national average. The effects of traditional heavy industry, and the legacy of poor and badly ventilated housing, still have a major bearing on health inequalities.

Despite these problems, our team of community-based nurses, exercise professionals and a pharmacist, with essential back-up from administration personnel, has achieved dramatic results, including:

  • Hospital admissions for patients seen by the service have been cut by 96 per cent.
  • Chest infections have been cut by more than 50 per cent for those undergoing the 12-week course designed to help people deal with their condition.
  • Around eight out of 10 patients are maintaining improvements a year after attending the course, having changed their perception about their condition and their lifestyle.

The scheme is now being.rolled out and expanded into more and more community-based venues. It is hoped that it will eventually work with all of.the estimated 6,000 people who suffer from breathing difficulties in our part of East Lancashire.

High accolades

As a result of these achievements,.our dedicated team was recently honoured at an.Institute of Healthcare Improvement/British Medical Journal event in Barcelona. East Lancashire PCT's service made it into the top three.out of 700 entries, and was only pipped by health projects from Sweden and Spain.

More importantly, back home the project.has transformed many people's quality of life.over the past 18 months.

The mix and calibre of the team involved, and its leadership, have been important parts of its success. Team members have forged links with other professionals in the PCT and.brought in other skills from partner organisations. In the context of patient-centred, convenient, high-quality service provision, we have empowered the team to deliver services in new ways. The benefits are clear: staff satisfaction, patient satisfaction and improved patient outcomes.

Knock-on effects

Respiratory service manager Judith McElroy says: 'We are so pleased with the success of the service, and the whole team is delighted with the international recognition. It makes all the work we are doing locally worthwhile.

'Local residents are benefiting and their quality of life is improving dramatically..The reduced burden on carers alone is helping all concerned, and the pressure on hospital services is reduced commensurately.'

In 2004-05, more than 600 local people had to be admitted to hospital each year with conditions such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, the majority of whom were.hospitalised for more than a week at a time.

But Judith says: 'Hopefully, this will be a thing of the past for people who undertake the 12-week course. The success rate of virtually 100 per cent is very heartening for those involved and their relations and friends. It can transform their lives and allow people to live their everyday lives in a more fulfilling way. Their quality of life increases dramatically.'

David Peat is chief executive of East Lancashire primary care trust.