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World COPD Day - How Denise can breath again thanks to a pioneering operation

9 November 2016

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 16 November is World COPD day and researchers, consultants, doctors and expert nurses will be in the main entrance of Southampton General Hospital on Wednesday 16th November from 12.30-4.30pm to talk about your lung health and give support on keeping healthy.

COPD is a preventable disease and 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.

Denise Burgess from Hythe near Southampton has been living with COPD for 15 years, and benefits support from NHS specialists working with her GP “Life’s much better. Things are so much brighter now I can breathe. I know there’s no cure but I can live with it now. 

My husband Brian and I can walk for miles now. I couldn’t make it down Lymington High Street before but now I can walk and just keep on walking. We had a party earlier this year for my daughter and I got up and danced. She said she hadn’t seen me do that in years!

My next target is to get to West Quay to do the Christmas shopping for everyone. It’s something I could never have done before. Then the next big thing is to fly to San Francisco next year to see my daughter and grandsons.”

Denise was diagnosed just after her daughters wedding in 2001 when she was just 52. She started to be sick from the build-up of mucus in her lungs. “It was those stupid cigarettes” she adds.

Mal North from NIHR CLAHRC Wessex* is a Researcher and nurse working with people to improve their breathing. He says: “COPD is the fourth biggest killer in the world and the second highest reason for people to be admitted to hospital –– but around 80% of people aren’t familiar with condition COPD.  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 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 get the opportunity to meet doctors, nurse specialists 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 integrated COPD teams and researchers at the University and Hospital in Southampton and Solent NHS Trust and Southern Health Trust work in partnership with the British Lung Foundation, NIHR, and others.

The information area will have doctors, nurse specialists and physiotherapists there to help people learn more about how to look after their lungs and the support available for such things as stopping smoking and occupational exposure. For those people with COPD advice and information will also be available on local service to help them live well with their COPD. 

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

For more information or to arrange an interview contact communications at: at NIHR CLAHRC Wessex T: 023 8059 7974 at Solent NHS Trust T: 023 8060 8889 

Or at University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust T: 023 8120 8756


Mrs Denise Burgess is 67 and has had an operation to fit ‘lung coils’ to help keep the airways open to her lungs. The operations were carried out at the Southampton General Hospital in March and June this year. 

Also at the event on the day the Breath into Song group will be performing. The choir is made up from people with respiratory conditions.

Southampton Quitters will be on hand to help stop smoking.

*National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (Wessex) - As part of the National Institute for Health Research, CLAHRC Wessex (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Wessex) conducts research to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the region and covers a wide range of health related issues.

More on NIHR CLAHRC Wessex at:

University Hospital Southampton Foundation NHS Trust and Solent NHS Trust Working Together

Patient and public involvement is vital to the success of the CLAHRC.

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