Breathlessness is common in people with heart and lung conditions and can get very severe and frightening. When this happens patients or family members often call an ambulance, especially when their own doctor’s surgery is closed. In a recent study, we found that 1 in 5 of all people taken by ambulance to Accident and Emergency (A&E) called for help because of breathlessness. A third of these did not need to stay in hospital and went home. There are treatments to calm severe breathlessness that could be used in the patient’s home. If paramedics can use this approach, breathlessness may be calmed more quickly and some people may not need to go to A&E.
We want to see if it is possible to run a research study with people calling ambulances because of breathlessness. We will test if paramedics trained in breathlessness techniques can ease breathlessness more quickly than usual care, and help more people stay at home. People with severe breathlessness have worked with us, said this is important and have agreed to help us run the study.
Eight paramedics in the Yorkshire area will be chosen at random to use the breathing calming techniques in breathless patients or to give usual care. We will note if patients’ breathing settles better compared to usual care, and whether the patient still needs to go to A&E.
At the end of this “test” study, we will know if, i) such care can be used by paramedics, ii) a larger trial can be done and iii) the best way to run it. We will let the participants, local support groups, charities, local clinicians and the funder know our findings and also publish them in a scientific journal.
This study is a key first step to help people with severe breathlessness needing emergency help.