Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: Healthcare from the heart of your community

Breathing problems (COPD)

Feeling that you cannot get enough air can be terrifying. It is normal to get out of breath when you have over-exerted yourself, but when breathlessness comes on suddenly and unexpectedly, it is usually a warning sign of a medical condition.

If you have struggled with your breathing for a while, don't ignore it. There are a number of reasons that sudden and unexpected breathlessness can occur. If the symptoms have got more frequent or more severe, it is possible that you are suffering from a long term lung condition which we can help you manage.

At Berkshire Healthcare, we have a team of specialist nurses and physiotherapists who can offer you advice and teach you the skills you need to manage your condition. They can also help you recognise what aggravates your condition and how to treat it effectively. You don’t have to deal with it alone.

What is COPD and what are the symptoms?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is the name used to describe a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, where people have difficulty breathing because of long-term damage to their lungs. The damage develops over a number of years so you may not be aware that you have the condition.

If you experience any of the following symptoms on a reoccurring basis, you may be suffering from COPD:

  • increasing breathlessness when exercising or moving around
  • a persistent cough with phlegm that never seems to go away
  • frequent chest infections, particularly in winter
  • wheezing
  • weight loss
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • swollen ankles

How we help you

We understand that COPD can affect every aspect of day-to-day life. It is likely that, in order to reduce the chances of flare ups (known as exacerbations) and help prevent admission to hospital, you will need to make a number of changes to your lifestyle. Our nurses can give you advice on what changes to make and offer opportunities to talk through your progress and concerns with your local team.

We provide home assessments of your respiratory needs with the aim of improving your lung condition and helping you to manage your breathlessness. As well as being able to see you at home we offer Pulmonary Rehabilitation Courses in Reading, Wokingham and Newbury. If you would like to attend these courses, please ask your GP to make a referral.

The Berkshire Healthcare team can also carry out social needs assessments to ensure that you can cope at home.

If you have been in hospital because of your COPD it is likely that your local COPD team will assess you once you are home. If your symptoms have not been severe enough for you to be admitted to hospital but you feel that you are not coping with your lung condition, then talk to your GP about the possibility of referral to the team.

As well as providing medical treatments, our specialist nurses at Berkshire Healthcare can help you practice inhaler and chest clearance techniques and breathing control exercises to help you manage your condition more easily.

Additional support services

Talking Health Logo If you live in Newbury, Reading or Wokingham we provide additional support for some patients with COPD. This new service teaches people skills to help them live a fulfilling life. It aims to support people with adjusting to and coping with living with COPD. The service also helps people identify barriers that might be getting in the way of goals relating to their health, as well as their general wellbeing. You can visit the Talking Health website to find out if this could be suitable for you and, if so, how your GP can refer you.

Need more information?

Berkshire Healthcare provides a number of leaflets (see below) which explain the symptoms of COPD, how doctors go about diagnosing it and how it can be treated. The leaflets also contain advice on how to manage your COPD, helping you to lead a full and active life.

Breathing matters
Information on COPD, the treatments available and how to cope with the condition

Breathe! Berkshire West
A site with information about COPD, for both patients and clinicians