Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (health and wellbeing needs in South Tyneside)


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the umbrella term for serious lung conditions that include chronic bronchitis[1] and emphysema[2]. COPD is usually prevalent in adults over the age of 35. As many as 3 million people suffer from COPD in the UK, of which only around a third of cases have been diagnosed. COPD is a serious lung disease for which smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor (NHS Choices).

People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways and destruction of lung tissue. Typical symptoms include breathlessness when active, a persistent cough and frequent chest infections.

Smokers can often dismiss the early signs of COPD as a 'smoker's cough', but if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life. Large numbers of people with COPD are unable to participate in everyday activities such as climbing stairs, housework or gardening; with many even unable take a holiday because of their disease.

If a timely diagnosis is present, COPD is a condition that can be effectively managed in a primary care setting.

Better identification of this condition is beneficial both for the patient, as a better quality of life is possible if managed effectively, and for health services with the reduction in the number of costly hospital admissions.

COPD is a specific priority for South Tyneside and is identified as such in South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group's Commissioning Intentions, and as part of broader work on smoking-related diseases in the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

The South Tyneside NHS RightCare Commissioning for Value (CfV) 'Where to Look' packs helped us identify the areas of greatest opportunity for improvement, with COPD being recognised as one of our key priorities. Key areas that the pack highlighted included:

  • COPD was our biggest opportunity from a spend perspective.
  • Local COPD prevalence is double that of the national average at 3.7%.
  • There is significant variation compared to our peer group in non-elective admissions and under 75 years' mortality.

[1] Long-term inflammation of the airways