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Better use of inhalers could save lives

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Millions of people in the UK have breathing difficulties but many do not use their inhalers effectively, potentially putting their lives at risk. Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is tackling this problem by launching a 'Breathe with ease' campaign urging inhaler users to get their technique checked.

GPs, practice nurses, community pharmacists and care home staff have attended workshops run by the CCG to improve their skill at teaching the technique. The campaign launched on 27 October focuses on getting the message to patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dr Anand Chitnis, CCG Chair and Castle Bromwich GP, says: "It is essential that patients use their inhalers effectively. We know that many are getting only a small fraction of the drug entering their lungs and some none at all but many believe they are using their inhalers in the proper way. So we are urging all patients to ask their local pharmacist, practice nurse or GP to check their technique."

Approximately 5.4 million people in the UK receive treatment for asthma. That is 1 in 5 families with someone living with asthma, 1 child in 11 and 1 adult in 12.

Over 3 million people have COPD (the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema). COPD is the second most common cause of emergency admission to hospital.

Each year tens of thousands of lives are claimed by these disease and studies have shown that improving technique can dramatically reduce deaths. These and other hard-hitting facts are included in an infographic the CCG is hoping will go viral through social media with hashtags #BreatheWithEase and #DoTechCheck.

Ian Black, Chair of Breathe Easy Solihull and a Knowle resident, has COPD and is a member of the British Lung Foundation. He says: "I know that if I do not use my inhaler properly it could lead to me being admitted to hospital as an emergency. It is that important and I want to encourage everyone who needs an inhaler to check that they are using it properly. It needn't take long but it is definitely worth it. Please get your inhaler technique checked, you will find the difference to be dramatic."

Nurse Kirsty Millard, from Hampton-in-Arden Surgery, who also leads on practice nurse development for the CCG, said: "My top tip is to get your technique checked by your GP, nurse or pharmacist.'

For online guidance patients should go to www.solihullccg.nhs.uk/yourhealth/inhalertechnique or www.asthma.org.uk

Dr Chitnis added: "I would also urge patients with lung conditions to take up the offer of free flu vaccination from their GP at the earliest opportunity. Flu can kill, and patients with long term conditions are particularly vulnerable.

"Even people whose health conditions are well managed and who lead otherwise healthy lives should still have the flu vaccine – it's free because they need it."