Some of Corby’s estimated 1,500 obstructive sleep apnoea sufferers have paved the way for easier diagnosis for patients around the UK after taking part in a ground-breaking trial.
Because diagnosing the dangerous sleep condition can be a time consuming process involving spending time at the overnight sleep clinic in Leicester, doctors in Corby came up with using an wrist-worn activity-tracker device to give people the chance to be diagnosed while they sleep at home.
The WatchPAT, has no belts, wires or nasal cannulas and uses finger based physiology and technology to enable accurate testing. The equipment records oxygen levels, breathing movements, heart rate and snoring through the night.
Dr Sanjay Ganhia, Lakeside Plus GP and Corby CCG board member, said: “I’m really proud of this because Corby is one of the first places to be doing this.
“We’re taking calls from everywhere in England and even from Ireland asking about what we are doing and how they can reflect that.
“Sleep apnoea is a term that as a GP I hear a lot.
“Sleep apnoea is not snoring. That’s different. It’s where people stop breathing while they’re sleeping.
“The consequence of that is that it affects how much energy you have during the day.
“It’s linked to problems with the heart, with blood pressure and with road traffic accidents because people fall asleep while they drive.
“There are estimated to be 1.5m sufferers in the UK but lots of people don’t know they have it.
“In Corby we estimate there are 1,500 patients suffering from that and at present we know about 350 people in the town with the condition. It’s a shame because there’s effective treatment available and there are simple lifestyle changes that can be made that can help.”
Patients at Great Oakley Medical Centre, Woodsend Medical Centre, Lakeside Surgeries and Studfall Partnership all took part in the six month trial.
Dr Ganhia, speaking at Thursday’s Corby CCG annual general meeting added: “People were going to their GP and being told they had to go to Leicester or Northampton to the sleep clinic and attend a number of appointments and they didn’t want to go.
“Before this pilot in Corby, out of 70 patients suspected of having sleep apnoea, 13 or 14 didn’t go to the appointments and there were quite a few who, after attending the appointments, were told they didn’t have it and everything was fine.
“After we introduced the portable device, out of 68 patients who used it, 28 were told they didn’t have sleep apnoea and we saved them time, and saved the NHS money. They were given advice.
The rest are now receiving active treatment from their GP so we are now trying to roll it out across Northamptonshire.”
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea
- loud snoring
- noisy and laboured breathing
- repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting
- some people with OSA may also experience night sweats and may wake up frequently during the night to urinate.
If you experience any of these symptoms, see your GP.