Portsmouth’s Breathe Easy groups clash over plans to cut life-saving exercise classes for those with lung conditions

HEALTH campaigners have clashed over claims the axing of exercise classes for those with chronic lung conditions would be a ‘death sentence’ for sufferers.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 12:23 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 1:25 pm
Eric Compton, patient representative for COPD in south-east Hampshire and chairman of Breathe Easy Portsmouth group. He is standing outside Buckland Community Centre where one of the pulmonary maintenance classes has been scrapped. Photo: Tom Cotterill

The comment was made by the Eric Compton, chairman of Portsmouth Breathe Easy earlier this week, who was worried about the impact cuts on pulmonary maintenance classes in the city would have.

It came after bosses from Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) confirmed they would be closing three groups across Paulsgrove, Buckland and Eastney.

At the time, Mr Compton claimed 150 people could be affected and added: ‘This is condemning people to death. They’re taking away a service that is vital to so many people in the city.

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From left, Paul Lipscombe, the former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Ken Ellcome, former Lady Mayoress Jo Ellcome, Arthur Harmer, Councillor Linda Symes and representatives from Breathe Easy. Picture: BH Live

‘People are now frightened and scared. They don’t know what is going to happen.’

However, his opposite number at the Breathe Easy Southsea group, said he was infuriated by the comments, which he branded ‘fear mongering’.

Paul Lipscombe – who said his group has nothing to do with the Portsmouth Breathe Easy wing after a fallout several years ago – has since sought to reassure residents worried about the cutbacks.

He claimed the new measures would ultimately help treat more people and reduce waiting times for rehabilitation classes.

Paul Lipscombe, chairman of Breathe Easy Southsea, was furious at the comments made by his opposite number over the impact cuts to maintenance exercise classes could have on those with chronic lung conditions. Photo: David George

Mr Lipscombe said: ‘We’re all furious at what’s been said. It’s fear mongering. We’ve known about this for two years – so should have Eric.

‘This isn’t about 150 people, this is about the 20,000 who suffer with lung conditions here in Portsmouth.

‘This new arrangement will help to bring more people through the door, reduce waiting times and get more people exercising, which is so important.

‘This absolutely isn’t a “death sentence” as Eric said. Yes, it’s their choice if they continue with the exercises classes – which will still be offered. But if people don’t want to do it I can’t hold a gun to their heads and make them.’

Responding, Mr Compton said he stood by his comments and vowed  he would ‘continue to fight’ against the proposals, which he was convinced would impact people –  particularly those living in the north of the city, on tight budgets.

He said:’People in the north of the city have real concerns about what’s going to happen now because it means they will have to get two buses to get to the Mountbatten Centre [where alternate paid-for exercise classes are available].

‘When they get to the bus stop, it’s quite a distance from the actual venue. Some people simply can’t make it.’

Mr Compton added he had been made aware of the services were under threat ‘several years ago’, but said during a meeting with the clinical director of NHS Solent at the time, an arrangement had been struck to extend the maintenance groups.

He said the first time he was made aware of the groups being axed by the CCG was during a meeting in December.

‘I said then that I would fight it and that’s what I intend to do,’ Mr Compton said.

Exercise groups are available for those with lung conditions, for £3 a session.

These are at Mountbatten Centre on Tuesday mornings, from 10am, Wednesday afternoons at 1.30pm inside the Pyramids Centre. Additional classes will also be set up from April 5, every Friday, inside the Mountbatten Centre at 11am.