Supporting vulnerable people to breathe better

The team behind Canterbury's Better Breathing Programme has been thinking outside the box for ways to support some of our most at-risk members of the community - people with long-term breathing conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). 

This group of people would normally be referred to an eight-week in-person pulmonary rehabilitation programme which sees respiratory nurses and physiotherapists help people with breathing issues learn about their condition and how to manage it with exercise. 

When the COVID traffic light setting turned red the team knew it was time to get creative.

“We’ve created a modified, non-contact programme which sees us making weekly phone calls, texts and newsletters to people who had been attending a face-to-face programme," says Catherine Harrison, Administrator/ Kaiwhakarite for the Community Respiratory Team.

The modified programme includes a welfare check to see if participants have made a plan in case they have to go into isolation, including if they have enough medicines, food, a support person and have a plan. 

"We then send them all out a package which includes a booklet we've created, called Living Positively With COPD, a walking guide, an exercise sheet, and a copy of the ministry readiness checklist," adds Catherine.

Heather Brunton, Integrated Services Programme Manager, said: “The Community Respiratory Team has been challenged with having to adjust to the new ways of delivering services to people with chronic breathing conditions across Canterbury.

“By checking in the team are talking to people about being “COVID ready” and helping navigate any needs and concerns.”

As well as adjusting the Better Breathing Programme the respiratory specialist nurses are supporting people with COPD who have been admitted to hospital. They’re facilitating the supports in the community with a biopsychosocial approach (a full assessment which considers the physical, emotional, social, and environmental factors linked to their condition – read more here.)

“Like many people working in health our team has pivoted to use their skills where they are most needed, and where it adds most value to our patients. They are a dedicated team, and they are looking forward to when they can connect face to face again at the Better Breathing programs when life returns to the Green traffic light setting,” Heather added. 

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