Healthwatch Somerset, which advocates improvements to health services on behalf of ordinary patients, is starting a new engagement project involving people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Working with Evolving Communities CIC, health representatives have launched a “community engagement project”, designed to improve the lives of people living with these conditions.
Bridgwater residents who either have COPD or know someone who does are being asked to make contact to get the widest possible sample for the project.
Respiratory diseases cause more deaths in Somerset than any other type of condition, apart from cancers and circulatory diseases.
COPD covers a range of lung conditions which cause breathing difficulties, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
It mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke or have smoked – though the risk also increases if you are exposed to dust fumes and chemicals at work, or if you had chest trouble or asthma in childhood.
Bridgwater has a relatively high level of COPD, with the condition affecting 2.3 per cent of the population as a whole and 3.3 per cent in more deprived areas.
However, less than 50 per cent of people in these areas have had an annual review with their GP, meaning many are not receiving support or have not even been diagnosed with COPD.
The impact of pollution on residents’ health has been raised recently as more homes are delivered between the town’s existing eastern edge and the M5.
Pollution concerns were raised by residents when plans for 530 new homes near the motorway were debated by Sedgemoor District Council – though the plans were ultimately approved in February.
The project is designed to “build and share understanding” of COPD patients’ needs, finding out how existing community services can better support them and inspire them to live healthier and more positively.
Emma Savage, deputy director of quality and improvement on the NHS Somerset Integrated Care Board, said: “This is an exciting project and innovative way to reach out to people living with COPD in Bridgwater using a community, strengths-based approach to help improve their health and well-being.
“We intend to evaluate this project and apply any learning to working with others in Somerset living with a long-term condition.”
To get involved in the project, or for more information, contact project coordinator Wendy Coward by calling 07884 370503, emailing [email protected] or visiting www.evolvingcommunities.co.uk/copd-project.