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Innovative Strategy Being Introduced for the Development of Respiratory Care for Patients in North Cumbria.


An innovative strategy is being introduced for the development of respiratory care for patients in north Cumbria.

Respiratory consultant Dr Paul Plant joined North Cumbria University Hospitals earlier this year and was soon appointed clinical director for respiratory medicine. Since then he has been working closely with multi-disciplinary staff to put in place this exciting new strategy which will be implemented over the next 18 months, with the aim of delivering a high-quality, sustainable and patient-centred service.

Plans include the purchase of equipment, a programme of training on new procedures, and recruitment of additional staff including consultant and specialist nurse posts, to provide more care locally, preventing patients having to travel to Newcastle and Preston for some tests and treatments.

The lung cancer pathway is being redesigned, starting from this month, to ensure that patients have their main investigations, usually chest x-ray and CT scan, prior to their first appointment with the consultant. This will mean that results will be available for the first appointment, and will speed up treatment plans.

Dr Plant said: “It is an exciting time to be a chest physician in north Cumbria. We have a real opportunity to develop a modern patient-centred respiratory service that we can all be proud of.”

Dr Plant specialises in lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and non-invasive ventilation and joined the Trust in March 2013 from St James University Hospital in Leeds, where he spent 13 years. His research on non-invasive ventilation led to it being introduced on wards across the UK.

Dr Plant was named European COPD researcher of the year in 2001 and was a hospital doctor of the year finalist in 2005 for his work on COPD.

COPD: COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is the name used to describe a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, where people have difficulty breathing because of long-term damage to their lungs. COPD leads to damaged airways in the lungs, causing them to become narrower and making it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs.

Non-invasive ventilation: In the past, patients having difficulty breathing usually had to be attached to a ventilator via a tube inserted into the windpipe through the mouth or the nose, under general anaesthetic. This is type of ‘invasive ventilation’ is still used when people are very seriously ill – when they are unconscious for example – but the preferred treatment for people with lung disease who need support to get sufficient oxygen into the body is non-invasive ventilation. It is non-invasive because it does not require a tube to be put into the windpipe. Instead, a cushioned mask, connected to an air pump machine, is fitted over the patient’s nose, or nose and mouth, and a pressurised airflow is blown into the mask; the strength of the pressure varies during the breathing cycle. This continual positive pressure helps to ‘splint’ the airways open, enabling more air to get in and out of the lungs. Non-invasive ventilation does not necessarily require admission to an intensive care unit; it can be given by specialist nurses and doctors in a normal ward or high dependency unit.