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Breathlessness intervention service

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Breathing problems are very common in people who have heart and lung conditions or some types of cancer. Breathlessness is disabling, frightening and distressing for all concerned. The good news is that there are several interventions (things) that can help, and this specialist Breathlessness Intervention Service (BIS) can help you and your family live more easily with your breathing problems.

Attend Anywhere video consultation

Did you know your outpatient appointment for this service may now be done by video consultation using Attend Anywhere. This enables you to be able to attend your appointment from home, saving you time and money.

Find out more about outpatient video appointments

Breathlessness is one of the most difficult and one of the most common symptoms of many advanced diseases. It has been called the pain of non-malignant disease because of this. Sadly the difficulties of living with breathlessness are often not recognised, even by very well-informed people, relatives or friends.

It is a very frightening symptom to have to live with and can induce feelings of helplessness or despair. Both the person who suffers from it and those closest to them often become anxious and sometimes depressed and worried by the impact of breathlessness.

There has not been much research in breathlessness and management has not progressed as well as it has for other symptoms such as pain. It is for this reason I set up a research based breathlessness service (BIS) at Addenbrooke’s hospital to help patients living with breathlessness and to learn more about how to improve the care of breathless patients ensuring that patients with breathlessness get all the help they need.

For health professionals

Referring a patient

External referral

If you would like to refer to the Breathlessness Intervention Service from outside Addenbrooke’s, please download and complete the referral proforma above and email it to us.

Addenbrooke's referral

If referring from inside the hospital, please refer via EPIC using code REF388.

CBIS and COVID-19

The Cambridge Breathlessness Intervention Service (CBIS) supports patients with chronic breathlessness that persists despite optimal management of the underlying disease(s). Patients and carers are supported to self-manage, using mostly non-drug approaches including breathing techniques, anxiety management and building up activity. The aim is to reduce the impact of breathlessness, and the use of health care.

CBIS is providing significant community consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic by telephone and/or video calls.

CBIS can help the following patient groups

  • People with long term conditions who are self-isolating and need support to self-manage breathlessness. Self-isolation can exacerbate anxiety and deconditioning, and these can both worsen breathlessness.
  • People who are recovering from COVID-19 and are experiencing breathlessness. As well as viral lung involvement, causes of increased breathlessness include anxiety, deconditioning and dysfunctional breathing patterns.

Please avoid referring

People likely to be in the acute phase of COVID-19 (use Coronavirus 111 helpline and primary care, and hospital care if needed)

People requiring oxygen assessment alone (consider community respiratory team)

People dying imminently from COVID-19 (consider palliative care referral and pharmacological breathlessness management)

Referral criteria

Diagnosed and investigated cause for breathlessness. Causes include long term cardiac and respiratory conditions, and/or COVID-19.

AND may benefit from self-management approaches. People with cognitive impairment may still benefit if their carers can support them with the approaches.

Referral process

Download a CBIS referral form (below) and email to add-tr.breathlessnessinterventionservice@nhs.net

OR telephone 01223 274404 (Palliative Care team office) from 09:00-17:00 and ask to make a Breathlessness Intervention Service referral.

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Patient information

Met Office – health
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Mindfulness videos - Jon Kabat-Zinn
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