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New lung service brings specialist treatment to north Cumbria

Some of the respiratory team R-L: Dorothea Shaw, Barbara McCready, Ann Harris, M Hanlon, Claire Donaldson, Joan Harris and Dr Sarah Wiscombe.

Patients who previously travelled to Newcastle for treatment for a rare lung condition can now be treated more locally in Carlisle.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a lung condition that scars the lungs and reduces the efficiency of breathing. It affects around 1 in 4000 people and there is no known cause.

Previously patients had to travel to Newcastle Hospitals for specialist treatment to slow down the progression of the disease. Now the clinics are being held at the Cumberland Infirmary in partnership with the Newcastle team.

Daniela Gomas

Daniela Gomas, 45, from Penrith has recently been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. She explained: “I’ve gone through a lot of tests to get to this point. Now I have a diagnosis I think it is great that the treatment is available in Carlisle. I would have travelled to Newcastle but I’m pleased I don’t need to because I can now go back to work this afternoon. The team here are fantastic.”

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson, 58, is a farmer from Keswick and has been travelling to Newcastle for treatment he said: “It’s certainly much handier for me to come to Carlisle and I am pleased that the team from Newcastle is running the clinics in partnership with the team at Carlisle as they have helped me a lot.”

Dr Sarah Wiscombe Consultant Respiratory Physician from Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust explained why it’s important that people have better access to this treatment:

“The treatment involves the patients taking anti fibrotic tablets which slow down the rate that scar tissue is formed in the lungs. The tablets are closely monitored by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence and can only be prescribed by specialist centres. Newcastle is one such centre but by working in partnership with the team at Carlisle we can bring the centre here and more patients with this difficult lung condition can benefit from access to the treatment.”

Ann Harris, Respiratory Nurse Specialist from North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust explained more about IPF: “IPF is a progressive condition and cannot be repaired by the body or by any drugs. The scar tissue that is formed because of the condition causes the lungs to become stiffer and they lose their elasticity. This means they cannot inflate as well leaving the patient with severe breathlessness. There is no cure for IPF but these anti fibrotic drugs do slow the scarring and can control symptoms.

“We have patients from across Cumbria and the fact we can now offer this service in the county is wonderful news. Many patients declined to see the team in Newcastle because of the journey. This new service for Carlisle could potentially benefit a patient’s quality of life.”

Patients with IPF also benefit from the wider pulmonary rehabilitation service which is available across the county.

Barbara McCready Specialist Respiratory Physiotherapist explains: “Across the county there are various pulmonary rehabilitation courses that people with a range of lung conditions can access. These courses help you to manage your condition and in many cases enables people with lung conditions to lead a more active life. These are based in the community and also in the main hospitals. People with IPF can access specialist rehabilitation courses where the exercises are specifically tailored for patients with this difficult condition.”

The new once-monthly specialist ‘Newcastle-in-Carlisle Interstitial lung disease clinic’ is now up and running. This has taken approximately 12 months of close collaboration between the respiratory departments and hospital trusts of North Cumbria Integrated Care and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals. By working together in partnership patients will receive rapid access to expertise and specialist treatments and holistic care for patients and their families can be provided in north Cumbria.

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