Lung experts in south set to launch new patient support group

Dr Sophie FletcherRespiratory experts based in Southampton and Portsmouth will mark the launch of a new support group for patients with lung disease at an event on Tuesday (23 September).

The Wessex Interstitial Lung Disease (WILD) support group will enable patients from across the region to meet and share their stories and experiences together for the first time.

The group, led by consultants Dr Sophie Fletcher and Dr Katherine Spinks, is a partnership between Southampton General and the Queen Alexandra hospitals and is supported by the British Lung Foundation and Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is the name for a large group of diseases that inflame or scar the lungs, with the most common form, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), increasing at a rate of 5,000 new cases every year.

It is estimated that IPF affects around 15,000 people over 60 in the UK, mainly men and former smokers, but can affect anyone and its cause is currently unknown. Patients with IPF have a life expectancy of three to five years.

In Southampton, Professor Luca Richeldi, a consultant in respiratory medicine based at the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, and his colleagues are at the forefront of research into the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

Earlier this year he re-launched a study he began in Modena, Italy to discover if electronic stethoscopes – usually used to listen to the heart – can detect early signs of IPF.  

In addition, he recently led an international trial which found nintedanib, a drug originally developed as a treatment for lung cancer, can halve the annual decline in breathing capacity normally seen in patients diagnosed with IPF.

Dr Fletcher, clinical lead for ILD at Southampton General Hospital, said: “We are making great progress both medically and scientifically in the treatment of ILD, but it is just as important for us that we have the right support in place for patients as well.

“The WILD patient support group will enable patients and their families and carers to come together on a regular basis, talk about their experiences, meet staff and hear about the latest developments in treatment and research.”

The first meeting, to be held at the Holiday Inn in Eastleigh, will involve a series of presentations and a focus group session. To find out more about the group and how to participate, email

Posted on Friday 19 September 2014