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Finding the missing millions: Time to take a deep breath and find out about your health

3 November 2015

We do it every second, its automatic, but we don’t always think about it until there is a problem. Breathing is something we take for granted, but there are several things that can make it harder – one of which is called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Wednesday 18 November is World COPD day and researchers, consultants, doctors and expert nurses will be in West Quay Shopping Centre from 9.30am until 3.30pm to help test your lung health and give support on keeping healthy.

COPD is one of the world’s biggest killers – it causes a narrowing of the breathing tubes and air sacs in our chest and lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen we can get into our bodies. There are several causes, air pollution and exposure to dust, but the main culprit is smoking.

It is estimated that over three million people with COPD in the UK but only a quarter of those are diagnosed. This means that the remaining are not even aware and if this condition left untreated can potentially cause severe disability and eventually lead to death. Therefore there is a great need to raise the awareness of this debilitating condition and address those “missing millions” with COPD.

Research figures from a team working at the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton Foundation NHS Trust (UHS) examined 16,000 patients and found that the best way of helping people live longer is to start supporting people to stop smoking early when they are diagnosed. That research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – the research arm of the NHS, and much of the additional research, care and support for people with the condition has been done by Solent NHS Trust working in partnership with the university hospital.

Mike Thomas, from NIHR CLAHRC Wessex* is a Professor of Lung Medicine and will be at the event. He says: “It’s one of the biggest killers in the world – in the top 5 – but for some reason people don’t think about it. We all know smoking has a link to cancer, but its link to COPD is just as serious.

We have spent years researching the best ways to support and treat people with the condition, and this event and clinic shows just how driven we are to get the message out to people.

Please just take the time to come and see us, it’s not often you can meet doctors, nurses and a consultant in a few minutes in one place. If you’re worried for any reason about your breathing, get advice.”

The big health issue like COPD needs a lot of support and advice to make a difference to people. That’s why researchers at the University and Hospital in Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, work in partnership with the British Lung Foundation, NIHR, and others.

From 12.45pm until 1.15pm the Singing for COPD group supported by Solent NHS Trust will be putting on a performance for the public next to the information area on the lower ground floor of West Quay next to the lifts.

Research on singing classes for COPD concluded that: “Singing classes have an impact on health status distinct from that achieved simply by taking part in a group activity.”

The information area and clinic will have researchers and staff there to help people test their lung function, learn about using an inhaler properly, find out about nutrition, and get help to stop smoking. You can also meet a consultant, learn more about the condition COPD as well as pulmonary rehabilitation, how to stay well with COPD, get involved in the research yourself, and meet the British Lung Foundation Breatheasy group. 

More information on COPD from the British Lung Foundation

  • 20% of COPD is not smoking related
  • COPD kills around 30,000 people a year in the UK, second only to lung cancer at 35,000 people a year
  • Around 3 million people in the UK have COPD, but 2 million are undiagnosed
  • Up to a quarter of long-term smokers will go on to develop COPD


Research from *NIHR CLAHRC Wessex has shown that out of 16,000 COPD patients in Hampshire, 20% of them were admitted to hospital with a crisis in their illness (an unplanned admission), 75% of that group of patients had gone to A & E for help. 37% of those admitted to hospital are smokers.

Notes to editors:

Mike Thomas is professor Lung Medicine at the University of Southampton and a former GP. He will be available for interview between 9.30am and 12.30pm.

The clinic and information stands will be in the lower ground floor of West Quay, Southampton next to the lifts from 9.30am until 3.30pm, with the COPD singers beginning their performance at 12.15pm.

Organisations behind this event include the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), *NIHR CLAHRC Wessex (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care – Wessex), The British Lung Foundation, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and Solent NHS Trust.

Contact: Jamie Stevenson (CLAHRC Wessex) on 023 8059 7974 email: js1v14@soton.ac.uk or Matthew Watts at University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust on 023 8120 8756 email: Matthew.Watts@uhs.nhs.uk

For more information see @wessex_clahrc (twitter) and NIHR Clahrc Wessex (Facebook)


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