CAMPAIGNERS fighting against the loss of a crucial lung rehabilitation service are pleading with the NHS to "give some thought to the people of the Wee County".

As highlighted in January, concerns have been raised by a local group supporting people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) after it was revealed a telehealth video-conferencing service would stop being delivered at Clackmannanshire Community Healthcare Centre.

It allows people to take part in exercises that improve the quality of their life, but early this year it was revealed the rehabilitation unit would move out of Forth Valley Royal Hospital, from where the video service was cast onto local screens.

Instead, sessions are being delivered at The PEAK in Stirling and Grangemouth Sports Complex and neither venue can provide video links to the Wee County facility, meaning local patients will have to brace travelling there.

NHS Forth Valley previously said a "small number of patients" accessed the classes at the health centre in Sauchie and gave assurances Wee County patients "may be eligible for help with transport".

When the Advertiser asked for clarity on what the support entails, an NHS Forth Valley spokeswoman said: "We have not been contacted by any patients in Clackmannanshire regarding access to the alternative pulmonary rehabilitation classes, however, we would review any transport issues on an individual basis."

The health board highlighted that COPD patients using oxygen at home would have in the past been referred to treatment at the hospital regardless.

However, that has not alleviated concerns over travel for other patients.

Linda McLeod BEM, chair of local support group Breathe Easy Clackmannanshire, told the Advertiser: "Somehow, I feel NHS Forth Valley haven't take into account the travelling that would be involved to attend pulmonary rehabilitation in both Grangemouth and at The Peak from Clackmannanshire.

"A person with walking difficulties, and suffering from lung disease who does not have access to a car, would have to take three buses to Grangemouth and three buses back.

"This would undo the benefit received at rehab and add an additional stress factor with all the travelling involved, especially the time taken to plan the journey.

"And this would assume all the buses were on time and actually running."

In comparison, getting to the hospital is possible in one direct journey, although services only run at certain times. Getting to Sauchie was also much easier for patients not on oxygen.

Getting to The PEAK requires patients to change at Stirling Bus Station – arguably one of the busiest areas in the town centre – with Linda warning about the effect of the fumes emitted by vehicles.

Pleading with the health board, she added: "Come on, NHS, please give some thought to the people of the Wee County suffering from lung disease."

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) has been supporting Breathe Easy Clackmannanshire in its call to retain services.

Joseph Carter, head of BLF Scotland, added: "At a time when the NHS is using telehealth and video-conferencing to deliver care to patients, it is disappointing that the relocation of pulmonary rehabilitation classes will deprive Clackmannanshire residents of the option to use these services locally.

"Previous studies have shown that telehealth pulmonary rehabilitation costs less per patient than regular pulmonary rehabilitation, whilst retaining most of the health benefits of these programmes.

"Telehealth pulmonary rehabilitation is not only effective at helping those living with COPD to manage their condition, it is cost-effective for the NHS.

"We hope that NHS Forth Valley will review the facilities available for delivery of pulmonary rehabilitation in Clackmannanshire, so that patients who want to use the telehealth service can continue to do so in future."