Health Minister Edwin Poots has highlighted the services available to people in Northern Ireland suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
The Minister was speaking at an awareness raising event organised by the British Lung foundation in Northern Ireland. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) causes people to stop breathing while they sleep, resulting in oxygen fluctuations throughout the night.
Minister Poots said: “Various factors increase the risk of developing OSA, but greatest of all is obesity. As waistlines increase throughout society, so do the numbers of OSA cases. It is therefore imperative that services are available to meet this growing demand.
“Although there are a variety of easy, cost effective treatments available, many people suffering from the condition will battle on alone, due to lack of awareness amongst the general public and the medical professions. Lifestyle changes, such as losing excess weight, can often help mild cases of sleep apnoea to resolve. In more severe cases, the use of breathing apparatus while sleeping may be necessary.”
The Regional Respiratory Clinic at Belfast City Hospital provides diagnostic testing and reporting for OSA, as well as subsequent monitoring and review for complex and non-complex patients. The Belfast Trust is working closely with the Health and Social Care Board to further develop the service, which will include full Polysomnography testing. Work is also ongoing to develop the services available to OSA patients in other Trust areas.
The Minister continued: “The Health Service cannot effectively tackle the problem of respiratory conditions in our society in isolation and it is for this reason that organisations such as the British Lung Foundation can provide a vital link between sufferers of respiratory conditions in the community, healthcare professionals, my Department and the commissioners of services.
“The British Lung Foundation have been very supportive of the Service Framework for Respiratory Health and Wellbeing, which sets standards in relation to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, rehabilitation and palliative care of individuals and communities at a greater risk of developing respiratory disease.
Left untreated, OSA can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and type 2 diabetes. It also causes chronic fatigue, which can have an adverse effect on an individual’s social relationships and lead to poor performance at work or school. Ultimately, OSA has a significant detrimental impact on all areas of a sufferer’s life.
The Minister concluded: “My Department looks forward to working with the Foundation in furthering the respiratory wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland going forward into the future.”