Published 19 December 2022
Falling asleep at the wheel, increased risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – some of the long-term consequences of sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is when a person’s breathing stops and starts while they are asleep. The most common type is called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and is thought to affect around four million people in the UK.
However, following demand for the service at Stamford and Rutland Hospital, a new nurse-led clinic dedicated to assessing the condition is up and running – and has already doubled the number of patients seen and halved the waiting list.
In addition to patients from the local area, others are referred from as far away as Northampton and North East Lincolnshire.
The clinic forms part of the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust’s respiratory service (including Stamford and Rutland Hospital’s weekly asthma clinic) and sees around seven patients a week.
Respiratory Nurse Specialist Jacqui Russell explained: “We introduced the sleep apnoea clinic to deal with a general build up of referrals to the respiratory service as a result of the pandemic.
“We have a large catchment area as many patients are able to choose our hospital for assessment once they have been referred by their GP. As we didn’t want to keep patients waiting, the Trust invested in some new equipment which has allowed us to see more patients.”
She added: “The main symptoms associated with sleep apnoea are regular unrefreshed sleep and continuous daytime tiredness, but severe snoring and pauses in breathing are also common.
“When patients come into clinic, we look at the sleep pattern, lifestyle and conduct a series of tests. They are sent home with a pulse oximeter to wear on their wrist overnight which measures their oxygen levels.”
So far this year, the clinic has assessed 155 patients for sleep apnoea – with 48 per cent of those tested having a normal study with no evidence of sleep apnoea.
A further 23 per cent had mild sleep apnoea, which would be managed with lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise and others would be advised to wear an oral device to help improve sleep quality and reduce snoring.
Some 16 per cent had moderate and 13 per cent had severe sleep apnoea - and these are the patients we would refer to specialist centres to see if they would benefit from a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure(CPAP) machine to manage their condition. However, not all patients with moderate sleep apnoea will need CPAP.
Jacqui added: “Sleep apnoea is easily diagnosed and managed but left untreated could lead to long term health issues including increased risk of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure and even falling asleep whilst driving.”
According to The Sleep Apnoea Trust, it is estimated that up to 13 per cent of adult men (aged 20-70) in the UK suffer from OSA. These are mostly, but not all, overweight men and they all snore. They feel tired and sleepy during the day and at night are often observed to stop breathing.
Peterborough City Hospital, Rutland and Stamford Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon are all part of North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust.
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