NHS trusts link up to provide vital health checks for drug and alcohol users

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An innovative one-stop clinic to support drug and alcohol users with their respiratory health has been launched in Northumberland.

The respiratory service from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside, developed and provides the in-reach service at Northumberland Recovery Partnership (NRP) clinics.

It means that patients receiving treatment for addiction and substance misuse will also receive a lung health check, including detailed breathing tests, and review by a respiratory consultant and specialist nurse. Those with a new diagnosis will return for another session to support them with their condition.

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The North East and North Cumbria has the highest prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the country.

Some of the team running the respiratory service at the Northumberland Recovery Partnership clinics.Some of the team running the respiratory service at the Northumberland Recovery Partnership clinics.
Some of the team running the respiratory service at the Northumberland Recovery Partnership clinics.

Prof Stephen Bourke, consultant respiratory physician at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “We know that people with drug and alcohol issues very often do not engage well with traditional healthcare services, despite being more likely to have problems with ill health.

“We realised that instead of waiting for them to come to us, we could go to them by working with our partners to provide what they need in one place.

“Attendance at clinics has been excellent and most people seen had previously unrecognised or undertreated respiratory disease.”

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Early feedback from patients has been positive, with service users praising the service for making them feel really valued.

Core20PLUS5 is NHS England’s national approach on healthcare inequalities – with Core 20 representing the most deprived 20 per cent of the national population, PLUS referring to population groups identified at a local level and 5 being the five areas of focus which require faster improvement.

People with substance use issues are an important group within the Core20PLUS5 programme as they experience some of the greatest disadvantages compared to the general population owing to their condition, their socio-economic circumstances, their physical and mental health comorbidities and stigma they experience due to their condition.

They also often live in parts of Northumberland that are among the 20 per cent most deprived areas of England, while COPD is one of the five areas of focus.

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The NRP is managed by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW).

Chrissy Kurek, clinical manager at CNTW, said: “We are delighted to host the respiratory clinic in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare.

“In a short space of time, the service has already supported a number of service users to attend and receive appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. This has enabled us to enhance the care and treatment that our service users receive.”

Patients receiving treatment from the recovery partnership will be identified for the one-stop-shop approach, which will include a one-and-a-half-hour appointment featuring lung function tests and time with both a consultant and respiratory specialist nurse.

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Those with a new diagnosis will return to a single small group session with one of the respiratory fellows to go over education, promoting smoking cessation, vaccination, physical exercise, exacerbation recognition and management.

This project has been funded by the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System Health Inequalities Fund, administered by Northumberland County Council Public Health.