Helping patients breathe more easily
22 August 2013
Breathing is such a natural function that most of us never pay it any attention. But, for those experiencing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), taking in air is a massive, exhausting and distressing effort.
COPD is a progressive and deteriorating condition which
frequently leaves individuals feeling anxious, panicky and
depressed and causes distress to those around them.
Recognising these effects prompted Southend University Hospital
to recruit the services of clinical psychologist Dr Hannah Osborne,
who said: "Doctors look after the medical side of the condition but
until now there has never been any help with the emotional side.
Yet the two go hand in hand."
Since coming to the hospital in January, Dr Osborne and her
- Developed self-help manuals for COPD patients to help them
manage their mood and anxiety
- Trained ward and community staff to recognise and manage
emotional problems in COPD patients
- Introduced a 'Breathe Well, Live Well' course which offers
cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and runs for six weeks,
covering areas such as acceptance, low mood, anxiety, activity and
- Developed a range of therapy services on both a one-to-one and
group basis, which are provided in the home as well as in the
hospital and community venues
Dr Osborne said: "Research shows that people with COPD often
have depression and anxiety which frequently goes untreated and
"COPD can affect their whole lifestyle. The natural response to
fighting for breath is panic, which triggers adrenalin and in turn
can make the patient more breathless. That can be very scary and
disabling and often makes patients feel their COPD is worsening -
when, in fact, they are panic symptoms.
"When patients are unable to be as active and involved as they
once were, they can lose a lot of self-esteem and confidence, and
their role in the family can change. As a result, COPD can be
very difficult to adjust to and can lead to increasing feelings of
"A lot of the support we offer is designed to help patients
manage the condition and have the motivation and confidence to do
so. They need to know COPD is not a life sentence."
Dr Osborne and her team have worked with patients both in
hospital and at home, and with their families and, so far, results
have been very impressive with marked changes in anxiety, mood,
confidence and breathlessness - and a subsequent reduction in
"The philosophy of the service is to help people with COPD
continue to have a meaningful life and do the things which are
important to them."
With pic: l to r Catherine Deeming, respiratory nurse specialist
(community); Amanda Mount, assistant psychologist specialising in
COPD, Natasha Bennett, trainee clinical psychologist, Dr Hannah
Osborne, principal clinical psychologist Mary Monaghan, asthma/COPD