Since the Gosport branch of Breathe Easy started in October, the number of visitors to the meetings has steadily increased. Gosport reporter Ellie Pilmoor went along to their latest gathering to see what goes on.
When Chris Staples started up a group for people with breathing troubles, he never expected it to be so popular.
But the Gosport branch of Breathe Easy has grown every month and members are keen to see what the group can offer.
Starting back in October, the monthly group has speakers from a number of different organisations sharing their knowledge and talking one-on-one with members.
But its popularity is a clear indication for chairman Chris that its services are needed.
‘I was going along to the occasional Portsmouth group when someone suggested we start one in Gosport for people in Gosport and Fareham,’ he says.
‘We only started it a few months ago so it is relatively in its infancy but it has really kicked off.
‘The first group had a handful of visitors but more and more people are signing up eager to hear what we can offer.
‘Some of the health statistics in Gosport are a bit shocking so I think it is important that we can tackle them.
‘There really is a need for it. There are some people who have other issues apart from their lung problems.
‘We have had some really good feedback from members.’
So far, the groups have had a range of speakers from Clinical Research Information System experts to people talking about new inhalers.
At their last meeting, talks were given by fitness instructor Emma Williams and representatives from the Queen Alexandra Hospital research team.
Chris adds: ‘I think people find the talks the most interesting part of the meetings.
‘They are always very informative and often help people with their illnesses.’
Working along with the British Lung Foundation, the group is open to people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.
‘Everyone who comes along is affected by or knows someone affected by lung illnesses,’ says Chris, aged 57.
‘They can get so much information from the speakers as well as individual help.
‘The meetings are two hours long which gives them enough time to hear from the speakers and talk to them at the end.
‘Although our members have similar lung troubles, they can differ so I think it is very important that they have this opportunity.’
In the country, there are 230 Breathe Easy groups and Portsmouth chairman Eric Compton has been helping Chris set-up the Gosport branch.
Eric’s aim is to bring the need of these groups to health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
He says: ‘At the groups, we can be voice of the people.
‘We want to bring the need of these groups and those people with COPD to Jeremy Hunt.
‘But it also gives people with these lung problems the chance to get help.
‘They enjoy the monthly meetings because they are surrounded by people who have similar conditions.
‘They can share experiences, discuss treatments and just socialise.’
Eric went along to the January meeting, at Gosport Leisure Centre, on Forest Way, and commended trainer Emma who spoke about the importance of exercise.
He adds: ‘It is interesting to listen to the different speakers and I liked hearing from Emma.
‘We found out that exercise was an important part of it.
‘It can slowly help improve breathing and their programme helps you at your own pace but so you see a difference.’
Many of the members at the meeting also enjoyed the talk by Emma.
But for Dot Hillier, who’s husband Rob has COPD, all the talks are beneficial.
The 71-year-old, from Goodwood Road, says: ‘I like coming along and hearing the speakers talk because I can learn along with Rob.
‘I think they are a very good thing.
‘Being the wife of someone with COPD, the groups do help.
‘We can discuss with others or just sit back and listen.’
The next Gosport Breathe Easy group meeting is on February 5, at 2pm.
They meet on the first Thursday of every month at the leisure centre.
Case study: Geraldine, 77
FOR Geraldine Mundie, the Gosport Breathe Easy group has been a real help.
The 77-year-old suffers from long-standing asthma and bronchiolitis - an infection of the small lung airways.
Ms Mundie was referred to the group, which meets monthly, by her doctor to help with her breathlessness.
So far, she has completed the exercise programme but, due to ill health, she had to stopped.
But Ms Mundie, from Wakefield Avenue, Fareham, is back at the exercise groups.
She says: ‘I have been coming to the Gosport Breathe Easy groups since December and I think it is very good. It has been a real help.
‘We haven’t got one in Fareham so it is good that there is one in Gosport.’
Ms Mundie has enjoyed the different speakers and enjoys listening to what they have to say.
She adds: ‘We have had a few talkers from different organisations which I have found interesting and helpful.
‘I particularly liked the nurses from the CRIS (Clinical Research Information System) team.
‘It is very useful to hear what they have to say.’
Case study: John, 77
SINCE going to the Breathe Easy group and the exercise classes, John Siely has seen improvements.
Mr Siely, from Sapphire Close, in Gosport, was referred to exercise classes by his lung nurses for his asbestosis.
He says the classes and monthly group meetings have seen him improved a lot.
‘I have found the exercise routines really brilliant,’ he says.
‘Along with the Breathe Easy groups, it is reall good.
‘I have definitely seen an improvement in my breathing.’
Mr Siely, 77, said his breathing got so bad he would feel breathless after 50 yards.
‘I could only walk about 50 yards and I would get out of breath because I was out of oxygen,’ he says.
‘But thanks to all the information and help I have received, along with the six-week exercise programme, I can walk further and further.
‘The different speakers and the subjects they talk about are interesting and I like to come down and listen to them.
‘I feel like they are all very specific to the different problems we have and they always have the time to speak to use one-one-one. It’s very good.’
Case study: Brenda, 78
FOR asthma sufferer Brenda Potts, the talk about inhalers was particularly interesting.
The 78-year-old has been going to the Gosport Breathe Easy group for a few months since it started back in October.
Mrs Potts suffers from asthma and liked hearing from the Cris (Clinical Research Information System) team about different inhalers and the right way to use them.
She says: ‘The meetings have been very good and interesting.
‘All the different people we have had talk to us have been very informative and interesting.
‘Personally, I liked the Cris team talk best because I have asthma and they were talking about inhalers.
‘Sometimes you can get given an inhaler and you use it in a way for so long in a certain way.
‘So it was very good to see their point of view on how to use them and what is available.’
Brenda, from Carisbrooke Road, Gosport, said the
group is beneficial to the area.
‘Since it started, I think you can see from the number of members that it is good for the area,’ she adds.
‘I would recommend the group to anyone who needs it.’
Case study: Rob, 80
THE social aspect of the Gosport Breathe Easy is what makes it stand out for Rob Hillier.
Mr Hillier, from Goodwood Road, in Gosport, likes going along to the meetings to see the experts but also chat with the other members.
The 80-year-old says: ‘I think the group is a very good thing.
‘People can meet up, chat and they can what discuss what they can do.
‘But I also like the fact that there is more to the groups too.
‘I was recommended by Queen Alexandra Hospital and started doing the exercise programme.
‘It has been amazing the benefits I have seen.’
Mr Hillier suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It means he gets short of breath quickly.
But as well as helping keep his fitness up, the Gosport Breathe Easy group provides a number of interesting talks.
Mr Hillier adds: ‘I liked hearing the talk about the research that goes on at QA Hospital.
‘It sounds like something which could be interesting to do. All the speakers so far have been helpful and the entire group sessions are just really informative for me.’