Oliver Colvile MP asks Plymouth: "Are you feeling breathless?"

Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, is encouraging residents of Plymouth Sutton & Devonport to take breathlessness seriously, in support of a British Lung Foundation (BLF) campaign to find the millions of people with an undiagnosed lung condition.[i]


The Listen to your lungs campaign encourages people not to ignore shortness of breath whilst doing everyday tasks, such as walking upstairs, mowing the lawn or hoovering – as this is one of the main signs you could have a lung condition. The aim is to urge people to take the simple BLF online breath test to see if they may need to see a GP. 


Oliver Colvile visited Plymouth Breathe Easy group on Tuesday 4 April - the local support group for people with lung conditions - where he listened to members speak about how they manage breathlessness. 


Christine Prinn, Chair of Plymouth Breathe Easy group said: “It was a pleasure to have Oliver Colvile visit us, and talk to the group. Raising awareness of lung disease is hugely important in helping people get a diagnosis and treatment. Once diagnosed, our group is here to give support.”


People in Plymouth are on average at a higher relative risk of some lung diseases than those of a similar age and gender in the UK. If you live in Plymouth compared to the GB average, you are:[ii]

  • 22% more likely to die of lung cancer
  • 15% more likely to be admitted to hospital with COPD and 10% more likely to die of COPD
  • 7% more likely to be admitted to hospital with pneumonia and 22% more likely to die of pneumonia
  • 26% more likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma
  • 68% more likely to be die of mesothelioma


Oliver is now encouraging local residents to take the BLF’s online breath test which allows people to check their health through 10 simple questions. Put together with leading respiratory physicians, it is based around the Medical Research Council breathlessness scale. The aim is to reassure people who don't have a problem and guide those with significant breathlessness to make an appointment with their GP. So far, approximately 700 people in Devon have taken it.


Oliver Colvile MP commented: “Completing the BLF’s online ‘breath test’ is a really easy way of checking your lung health. I’d encourage everyone to try it. It’ll either give you peace of mind or start you on a path to helping you manage your breathlessness.


“Sixty-five per cent of people underestimate the proportion of deaths in the UK caused by lung disease, it kills someone every 5 minutes. If you’re even slightly worried a loved one has been feeling increasingly short of breath – please make sure they take the test.”


Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “We all feel short of breath sometimes. That’s normal. But sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing irreversible lung damage.


“It’s great we now have the support of Oliver in encouraging people in Plymouth to listen to their lungs. Together we can ensure that those people who are living with an undiagnosed lung condition seek help and get the support they need. With an earlier diagnosis and treatment, people can live longer, healthier lives.”


[i] NHS England – Health and high quality care for all, now and for future generations. Section 6.2, Earlier and acute diagnosis of COPD: ‘An estimated 2 million people have undiagnosed and untreated COPD’.  https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs/deliver-forward-view/sop/r…

[ii] These statistics display relative risk for lung conditions in the Plymouth Council geographical area (relative to all GB), adjusted for age and sex. Figures were obtained from a three-year epidemiological research project – The respiratory health of the nation - funded by the British Lung Foundation. This research was carried out between 2013 and 2016 and involved academics from across the UK. www.statistics.blf.org.uk