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Cheyne Gang Singing Group

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I welcome the debate and congratulate Gordon MacDonald on bringing it to the Parliament.

As the deputy convener of the Health and Sport Committee, a registered nurse and co-convener of the Parliament’s cross-party group on lung health, I have a huge interest in respiratory health. That is, in part, due to my older sister, Phyllis Murphy, who is a respiratory nurse consultant with NHS Dumfries and Galloway. Phyllis has played a huge part in informing me about on-the-ground issues and was the catalyst for my starting the lung health cross-party group at the beginning of this parliamentary session.

Over recent years, there has been a change in attitude towards lung health. There is much more emphasis on healthy lungs, more people are accessing treatment and support, and there is greater public understanding of the risks to lung health and the fact that smoking is the number 1 cause of COPD and lung cancer. That is all very welcome.

Many lung conditions, such as COPD, bronchiectasis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, are chronic, progressive conditions that leave people with symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue. In November 2019, a report by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland showed that 139,187 people in Scotland had been diagnosed with COPD alone—an increase of 26 per cent since 2011, as Gordon MacDonald said and as it says in our briefing, for which I thank Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and BLF.

Because of that increase, more people than ever need support and treatment to be able to get to a stage at which they can self-manage their condition, and one of the most effective treatments for a chronic lung condition is pulmonary rehabilitation. Fitness groups and community-led initiatives are promoting breathing exercises, mindfulness and activities such as tai chi, which I know from experience is great fun. Participation is fun and the activities benefit lung health and mental health.

The Cheyne Gang choir is a perfect example of that. I had the pleasure of hosting a choir in the Parliament in 2018, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself when I joined in. The choir helps people to achieve better breathing and provides an opportunity for social engagement, thereby helping to tackle social isolation and loneliness while improving lung function.

Singing is good for people, and it is well documented that singing improves people’s moods. It releases the same feel-good brain chemicals as sex and chocolate, it may be very effective as a stress reliever and it improves sleep. Singing releases pain-relieving endorphins that help people to forget a painful tooth, knee or whatever. It improves posture, increases lung capacity, clears sinuses and respiratory tubes and improves mental alertness. Singing also tones facial and stomach muscles. There are many benefits of singing, so I support anyone who joins in, whether or not they have lung ill health.

In Dumfries and Galloway, we have a couple of groups, the Moffat Huffin Puffins and the Dumfries puffin group, and several NHS Dumfries and Galloway pulmonary rehabilitation clinics have been established across the region. I have visited and spoken to many of the people who regularly attend those groups, and the positive effects of engaging with pulmonary rehabilitation, including singing, were apparent. The people who engage have a great time and, as Gordon MacDonald said, they also have a cup of tea. I support the Cheyne Gang groups, which are fabulous.

I also highlight the respiratory care action plan, which has been developed by Dr Tom Fardon, who will be present at the next cross-party group meeting on the progress of the plan, which is under consultation.

Once again, I thank Gordon MacDonald for bringing the debate to the chamber today, and I look forward to more Cheyne Gang participation in the future.