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An estimated 1.2 million people are living with COPD in the UK1 and research suggests that this number is growing (BLF 2020). Both external and internal environments can be implicated in the aetiology and control of respiratory conditions and people living with COPD are especially vulnerable to exacerbations brought on by poor air quality. PHE estimates that between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in the UK are thought to be attributable to human-made air pollution (PHE 2019).
With air pollution being such a significant factor in the quality of life of patients with lung conditions, the PCRS Greener Healthcare Initiative and White Paper (Greener Respiratory Healthcare That is Kinder to the Environment) sets out to promote practical action that can help to reduce the environmental impact of respiratory healthcare including;
- Improving the early and accurate diagnosis of lung conditions – this alone can reduce the potential to decrease unnecessary repeat visits to the GP practice and emergency admissions to hospital.
- Encouraging and educating patients in supported self management, and adherence to prescribed medicines to help reduce waste, stockpiling and unused medications.
- Better processes and information about how and where to recycle or safely dispose and return inhalers could also help to reduce landfill, wasted medication and release of harmful propellants and gases.
PCRS is also calling on healthcare commissioners, healthcare leaders, industry stakeholders and environmental groups to work together to identify solutions, strategies and treatments that promote greener healthcare.
Carol Stonham, Executive Chair of PCRS said, “Everyone has a right to breath clean air, to live life well and without the fear and worry of the effect of air pollution on their doorstep. Increasingly we are all re-evaluating our personal carbon footprint, reducing waste, recycling where we can, using less plastic and trying to use our cars less – but we all need to do more and that includes the healthcare sectors. We are acutely aware of the detrimental impact of air pollution on patients with COPD but also acutely aware of the role healthcare plays in contributing to emissions. It’s a big ask but there are actions that we can take at a personal, professional and system wide level to start to address what might look like an enormous task”.
1 Source – BLF - https://statistics.blf.org.uk/copd
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