The Breathlessness Intervention Service is a multidisciplinary intervention delivered to patients’ homes designed to treat shortness of breath.

For several years now Dr Morag Farquhar has been involved with the Breathlessness Intervention Service (BIS), set up by Dr Sara Booth at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge who, importantly, saw the need to formally evaluate the service.

Unusually for an outpatient service, the service is often delivered in patients’ homes. “A lot of these people are too breathless to leave the house,” explains Farquhar. There is another, important reason why it is beneficial to visit patients in their own home, and that is to see the patient in their own environment, so that the intervention – advice and treatment – can be tailored specifically to their circumstances.

“BIS is what’s known as a ‘complex intervention’, one that has a number of different components, often delivered by a number of different healthcare professionals,” says Farquhar, who has been involved in developing and evaluating the service in collaboration with Booth, with funding from the National Institute of Health Research, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Gatsby Foundation.

BIS is not aimed at everyone who is living with breathlessness, she explains, but rather at those who are struggling with the condition – and this applies both to patients and their carers. “Breathlessness can be very frightening for family members who are caring for their loved one. They often struggle to know what to do. They will do things like keeping asking how they can help, and of course the patient can’t respond as they can’t speak. Or they’ll take the approach where they won’t let the patient do anything because they’re worried it’s going to make them breathless – but this is counterproductive, as the patient will get muscle wasting and weakness and so will get breathless more easily.”

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