The British Lung Foundation has a network of people-led Breathe Easy groups, run by community-based volunteers. These promote self-management, health and well-being via peer support and education for older people living with long term respiratory illness.
Working with healthcare professionals (HCPs) the groups offer advice, talks and opportunities to meet others. In order to achieve sustainability and maximise impact of these groups, they have increasingly been supported to strengthen their relationships with NHS respiratory services. This has resulted in a new model of Integrated Breathe Easy (IBE). IBE keeps the best elements of peer support combined with a new focus on engagement with commissioners and health care professions to ensure sustainability and integration with respiratory pathways. These groups benefit from increased referrals and attendance, formal support for healthcare professionals and recognition by commissioning organisations.
What CSAIF funded: The British Lung Foundation was awarded £396,688 (including £90,000 for evaluation) to create new 'Integrated Breathe Easy' peer groups, supporting more than 3,000 people affected by lung conditions in England. The Breathe Easy network provide support and information for people living with a lung condition, and those who look after them. Integrated Breathe Easy groups have a high level of integration with local health services and commissioners, linking participants to clinical services such as pulmonary rehabilitation, and have formal arrangements for healthcare professionals, such as respiratory nurses, to attend their sessions.
The evidence generated through the grant has helped the team successfully secure additional grant funding from the Big Lottery Fund, to continue the growth of their peer network across the UK over the next five (5) years. View the full impact evaluation.
Aim: The evaluation aimed to assess the impact of Integrated Breathe Easy (IBE) groups on the mental and physical well-being of people living with and affected by a lung condition.
Evaluator: University of Kent (Centre for Health Services Studies)
Level on Standards: 1
Method: Baseline data was collected at the initial Breathe Easy group meetings, and follow-up data collected at six months. Supporting qualitative interviews were also carried out, alongside an economic evaluation.
Participants: 103 participants in the non-participating control group, dropping to 61 on follow-up. 142 participants in the non-integrated control group, dropping to 55 on follow-up. 246 participants in the integrated intervention group, dropping to 86 on follow-up. 134 participants in newly-established BE intervention group, dropping to 34 on follow-up. Participants were matched via propensity scoring, with some significant differences found concerning levels of deprivation, education, skills and training for newly established BE groups.
Why this Level: This evaluation suggests a positive change over time for the individuals that the British Lung Foundation supports, using a set of externally validated tools. Significance testing indicated that two of the monitored outcomes experienced significant changes. However, the main factor that prevented reaching a higher Level on the Standards was an attrition rate of over 50%.
Progress: The evaluation has been a very useful tool to promote Breathe Easy to potential NHS partners, healthcare professionals and volunteers. In 2017 BLF commences a two year project funded by Leeds City Council with support of the city’s three CCGs to establish a city-wide network of Breathe Easy groups with weekly exercise classes.
Lessons learned: The evaluation of the Integrated Breathe Easy model provided an independent assessment of the value of self help group support for people with long term respiratory illness. I addition to the positive outcomes for individuals attending Breathe Easy, we learnt much about the model itself which is informing next steps in its development.
Next steps: With further funding from Big Lottery we are using the outcomes of the evaluation and the additional learning to strengthen the Integrated Breathe Easy model and roll out UK-wide. Specifically: