Pulmonary Rehabilitation could save NHS Lothian £2.5 million a year

Lothian MSP Miles Briggs today led a members debate at the Scottish Parliament for “Love Your Lungs Week”, which runs from 17th to 23rd June 2019. Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) is a treatment for people living with chest conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which is proven to be both clinically effective and cost-effective through reducing hospital admissions.


Often led by physiotherapists, PR programmes combine physical exercise with education, advice and support, and are delivered over a number of weeks in group settings. They build peoples confidence in self managing their chest condition, and in their ability to get active and live as independently as possible.


COPD accounts for over 127,000 hospital bed days annually in Scotland, yet there is insufficient investment in the treatment required, leading to limited capacity on rehabilitation programmes, and long waiting times. Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland estimates that there is capacity on pulmonary rehab programmes for less than 6,000 people, but almost 70,000 people with COPD alone would benefit.


During 2017/18 in Lothian there were 17,400 people diagnosed with COPD, 9,478 of whom would benefit from Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) programmes. Out of the 9,478 of peoples who would benefit from PR, 1,395 people (15%) were referred for PR and NHS Lothian has an approximate annual capacity of 1,248 (13%) for delivering PR.


Audit Scotland suggest that 4 bed days per person could be saved by completing a pulmonary rehab programme – a potential cost saving of £2,000 per person. If the current capacity of rehab programmes in NHS Lothian was doubled (from 1,248 to 2,496), that would mean a potential cost saving to NHS Lothian of £2,496,000.


Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP, said:


“Both the British Heart Foundation and Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland are campaigning for more investment in pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) for patients and I want to give my strong backing to their campaigns.


“PR is a key part of clinical guidelines for treating COPD and supports people to self-manage.


“Doubling the current capacity of rehab programmes in NHS Lothian would mean a potential cost saving to NHS Lothian of £2.5 million.


“I have called on the Minister for Public Health to set out what plans the Scottish Government has to expand pulmonary rehab programmes given the huge potential it offers for both people with COPD and NHS finances.”




Dorothy Keith from Newtongrange in Midlothian, who was diagnosed with COPD in 2009, said:


“I get terrible breathlessness, and that can actually cause me to go into panic which makes you ten times worse, really.


“Pulmonary rehabilitation was the making of me… I was 6 years into having COPD before I was asked if I wanted to do this.


“I had to then wait another 18 months before I got into a class but it turned my life around.”




Notes to Editors



Miles Briggs S5M-16939

Love Your Lungs Week

That the Parliament welcomes Love Your Lungs Week, which takes place from 17 to 23 June 2019; understands that lung disease is a major challenge for the NHS, with lung cancer being the most common individual cause of death in Scotland, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease being the third most common; believes that lung disease places a huge burden on those who have the condition, as well as on their loved ones; notes that the theme of this year’s Love Your Lungs Week is early diagnosis; understands that the British Lung Foundation’s online breath test, which seeks to raise awareness of the early warning signs of lung disease, has been taken by over 460,000 people across the UK; notes the importance of early diagnosis to help people live well with lung disease, and celebrates the work being carried out by researchers, clinicians and charities, such as the British Lung Foundation, to encourage everyone to love their lungs.

Miles Briggs