Funding offers better breathing support for heart failure patients

Heart failure patients can now benefit from better breathing support thanks to a Hawke’s Bay District Health Board funding initiative.

The funding comes after a successful 18-month pilot, Better Breathing Hawke’s Bay, incorporating 59 heart failure patients with breathing difficulties into the DHB’s pulmonary rehabilitation programme, normally delivered to chronic respiratory disease patients.

Participants of the pilot, completed earlier this year, attended twice weekly, two-hour group sessions focused on exercise and education over a period of eight weeks.

Hawke’s Bay DHB Planning, Funding and Performance Executive Director Emma Foster says pilot participants’ health and wellbeing had significantly improved, prompting the DHB to fund the ongoing inclusion of heart failure patients.

“An audit of the pilot showed as well as reduced breathlessness and improved fitness, participants had improved self-management skills and health literacy,” Mrs Foster says.

“Equipped with these skills, they were about 50 per cent less likely to present to hospital,” she says.

General practice or specialist teams can refer heart or respiratory disease patients with reduced exercise tolerance, or those who have difficulty coping with daily activities due to breathlessness, to the programme.

Better Breathing Programme Lead Eileen Hall says the programme is an example of a cornerstone health intervention recognised by the World Health Organization, Thoracic Society of Australia and NZ and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease.

“We used internationally accredited assessment tools to measure improvements in quality of life, fitness and self-management,” says the DHB Clinical Nurse Specialist.

“These tools showed participants had an improved quality of life, among other health outcomes,” she says.

“Participants also benefited from social interactions with others who have the same challenges, with some participants even forming their own support networks.”

Mrs Hall says many people experiencing breathlessness need to improve their exercise tolerance.

“It’s very slow and it’s very patient dictated but what we find is that over the eight weeks people can do more exercise, for longer, and become more independent and self-confident.”

The DHB runs group sessions in Napier, Hastings, Central Hawkes’ Bay, Wairoa and virtually via Zoom. Group sizes are limited to 20.


Photo caption:

Better Breathing Hawke’s Bay Programme Lead Eileen Hall

For more information contact:

Hawke’s Bay DHB Media Team

Mobile: 027-599-9507

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