Bronchiectasis-specific pulmonary rehabilitation

Kayleigh Owen – Specialist Respiratory Physiotherapist

Swansea Bay University Health Board


Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) is a multidisciplinary programme recognised as a key management strategy for those with chronic respiratory impairment.

People living with bronchiectasis are offered generic PR programmes which focus heavily on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Unlike COPD, Bronchiectasis is in many cases idiopathic or linked to acute childhood respiratory illnesses like whooping cough meaning education on topics such as smoking cessation and inhaler technique are often irrelevant.

Other than generic PR programmes, Bronchiectasis patients attend Respiratory Consultant and Respiratory Physiotherapy clinics, spending on average just 2 hours per year with healthcare professionals but would benefit from more input.

Project Aims

Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Bronchiectasis


The global COVID-19 pandemic impacted the programme with all face-to-face patient contact being cancelled in mid-March. We were in the 5th week of the second programme at that point.

Since then, a PR programme with a COPD cohort has been piloted with social distancing and increased infection control measures with success. However, venue suitability and cohort sizes have been impacted.

Patient referrals for this service came from well-engaged Respiratory Consultant-led clinics. We have seen the number of referrals reduce in line with the reduction of face-to-face clinics as a result of the pandemic.

Key Outcomes

Bar chart showing results of Incremental Shuttle Walk Test
Column chart show BHQ Combined Results 2019-2020

“The best part is you are with people who have the same problem, making you feel at ease”
“I don’t feel ill anymore”
“Given me the knowledge to control the condition, a more positive mind set and helped me feel better and in control”
“All the information received has been so helpful”
“The programme has helped me realise that I could manage my condition with breathing techniques, how to cough, reduce my anxiety, exercise and good diet”

Next Steps

Further feedback on education topics can guide what is most useful for people living with Bronchiectasis.

We will explore the potential for a longer programme; for example eight weeks rather than the six-week model used by the majority of generic PR courses. This could provide an opportunity to see greater improvements in exercise tolerance and emphasise some of the learning topics.

We aim to rollout across the health board to provide the service in more local communities.

The British Thoracic Society Guideline for Bronchiectasis in Adults (2019) noted a research recommendation to explore the role of education, self management plans and who delivers pulmonary rehabilitation. Our project can play a key role in this research.

My Exemplar Experience

Being a Bevan Exemplar has taught me the importance of networking in pursuing your ideas and making them a reality.

With thanks

Huge thanks to Hayley Thomas for all her work in collating the data for this. Thank you to the Swansea Bay University Health Board Pulmonary Rehabilitation for their support and enthusiasm for this project. Special thanks to Tracey Eldred for creating the digital story and Jo for recording it.


Kayleigh Owen – Specialist Respiratory Physiotherapist


Bevan Exemplar Innovation Showcase: December 2020