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Respiratory Health Q4 2020

Clean air is essential for respiratory health

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Carol Stonham

MBE RN, Queen’s Nurse, The Primary Care Respiratory Society

Focusing on reducing the environmental impact of respiratory healthcare is a priority we cannot ignore.

In 2020, the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS) launched the Greener Respiratory Healthcare Initiative. Healthcare accounts for 4% of carbon emissions in England and minimising the environmental impact of healthcare in general is a key goal for the NHS1.

Environmental pollution also contributes to the burden of lung disease. Around one in five people in the UK are living with a lung disease and a further 10,000 people are diagnosed every week2. For many of these people, air pollution is both a cause and an aggravating factor, making their symptoms worse and their lives more difficult.

Early and accurate diagnosis is key

We believe that a key to greener respiratory healthcare is to ensure patients receive an early and accurate diagnosis. This is critical so that patients can receive the treatment that’s right for them. Accurately diagnosed and well controlled respiratory disease is already greener as it avoids wasted medications and additional hospital visits.

We need to work collaboratively to ensure optimal respiratory health for all.

Greener medications must be fit for purpose

Many of the medications prescribed for respiratory disease come in inhalers, delivering medicines straight to the lungs. The choice of inhaler should be made based first and foremost on what best controls a patient’s condition and that the patient is able to use effectively.

As a patient you can do your part by making sure you can use your inhaler correctly every time and letting your doctor or respiratory nurse know as soon as your COPD starts to flare up.

After that, if there is more than one inhaler that might be right for you, the greener option may be the one you want to choose. In the future we hope that all inhalers will be kind to the environment. For now, we need to make sure they are used correctly, used until they are empty and are safely disposed of or recycled where possible.

Greener respiratory health care

We need to work collaboratively to ensure optimal respiratory health for all. We can do this by raising awareness, providing education, and advocating for proactive strategies to reduce the impact of respiratory healthcare on the environment. This is at the heart of the PCRS Greener Respiratory Healthcare Initiative, as we enable our members to deliver healthcare that is kinder to environment.

The Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS) is a UK-wide professional society for respiratory health care professionals. The PCRS launched the Greener Respiratory Healthcare Initiative in 2020 to ensure #NoWasteNoHarm.

1 NHS England. Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service | 2 British Lung Foundation. Lung disease In the UK – big picture statistics. Accessed November 2020.

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