Tag Archives: Ealing

Health blogs concerning organisations in Ealing, West London and local news from patients


Are you over the age of 50?


Would you like to develop or join a social network for oldies?

Such a network could provide support, break isolation , organise activities and more…………

come to a first get together on :-

             Monday 20th February  – 10am until 5pm


                       Ealing Quakers Meeting House

                            17, Woodville Road,W5  2SE   


                                                 refreshments available 

              Drop in anytime stay as long as like, come with ideas to share

For more information contact Andrée 

Tel:  02085673446

                                 Everyone Welcome

Welcome phrase in different languages. Word clouds concept.


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One of the most distressing things I had to do as a junior obstretric doctor was to attend the monthly meetings to discuss neonatal and maternity deaths. At that time many of the causes were unavoidable due to lack of medical progress and expertise in monitoring and managing complications of labour. Also, caring for the neonate was limited and often carried out by junior paediatricians without specialist training.  I was one of those junior paediatricians and was often left to resuscitate  and care for a neonate with virtually no training. Some of these precious babies miraculously survived but a significant number died with complications of prematurity and foetal distress which are now treated with success by staff, who are highly trained.

However, we still aware that their are  inconsistencies with regards to facilities and availability of trained staff and although deaths are significantly fewer every neonatal or maternal death is a tradegy for the families expecting to take home a healthy normal baby and every woman having a baby expects to survive. Hence, the overall opinion from the commissioning groups is that each maternity unit should have the most up to date facilities and highly trained staff to be available every minute of the day and night to address and problems should they arise.

I had three births under the care of the  Old  Queen Charlotte Hospital, Goldhawk Road. The first birth was after a difficult, long labour and delivery was using antiquated Keilland’s high rotating forceps and both my condition and the baby’s was ‘touch and go’ but thankfully we both survived. My second birth was a precipitant delivery in the antique bath on the ante-natal ward with late assistance from a passing junior midwife – my idea of having a delivery in a birthing pool which hadn’t been invented at that time – but much more cumbersome to get out of!  My third delivery was in the front seat of the car ( my husband was driving) ‘on the way to Queen Charlotte’s’  as stated on her birth certificate – a natural delivery with no complications even not needing stitches just so hungry afterwards that I ate my breakfast and my husband’s whilst he went home to clean the car! That was the nearest I could have to  a home delivery which were not available at that time!  She now uses the car registration number as her email address and is 29 yrs of age tomorrow! That is the reason why I feel pleased to see a much more consistent approach……


Moreover, as Ealing Hospital was unable to meet these requirements the maternity unit will be closing on June 25th and expectant mothers will be directed to another unit in Northwest London.

Uncomplicated pregnancies can be managed in the communitiy with improved support for home deliveries.

All our maternity units offer both consultant-led and midwifery-led care depending on the level of support you need. They all have birthing pools accomadati g families to be part of the event at the same time the most up to date facilities and staff are available if necessary. You can  also choose to give birth at home, where you will be supported by our home birth team.


Antenatal care is carried out in our hospitals, in children’s centres and in health centres close to where you live. Most women can choose where they receive antenatal care, although some women with particular medical needs may be advised to attend hospital for appointments. Women can also choose to have their postnatal care either at home, in hospital, or in health and children’s centres near where they live. Recently we have concentrated our staff and resources into six maternity units.

This has enabled us to have more midwives and senior consultants in our units to provide care for women, upgrade our facilities, provide more antenatal (before birth) and postnatal (after birth) care locally and offer greater home birth choice.

Your choices In North West London there are six hospitals where you can give birth:


– Chelsea and Westminster

– Hillingdon

– Northwick Park

– Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea

– St Mary’s

– West Middlesex

further details can be accessed using the following link:-


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Are re you a carer?

If you look after your partner, or a relative or friend who is ill or disabled, you are a carer, even if you don’t think of yourself that way.

There are many ways that you might care for someone.

For instance you might:

  • be on hand 24 hours a day to provide care
  • arrange hospital appointments for someone
  • drop round each day to keep someone company or cook their dinner
  • visit a relative who lives far away once a month to see how they’re doing.
  • Whether you’ve cared for the person for a long time, are temporarily helping them (for example, while they recuperate from an operation), or have just become a carer, take time to review your options and find out what support is available to you.

To establish your rights as a carer refer to  Age UK on the following link

The Care Act comes into force in May 2015. It changes the way the social care system will work in the future.

You’ve probably heard about the biggest change: a care cap that means no-one will spend more than £72,000 of their own money on their care needs.

If you need care, or look after someone who does, you’ll need to know how care is changing.


Ways it may affect you from April 2015:

  • You will have a right to a free needs assessment from your council, even if it thinks your finances are too high or your needs are too low to qualify for help.
  • All councils will use a new national eligibility criteria to decide whether someone can get help from them.
  • If you get social care support, you will now have a right to request a personal budget if you’re not offered one. This is a summary of how much the council thinks your care should cost. This might be useful if you want to pay for your own care. This will become more important when you have a care account from April 2016 (see below).
  • If your needs assessment shows you don’t qualify for help from the council, they must advise you how the care system works and how to pay for your own care. So if you just need a hand with housework, for example, the council should assist you in finding this.
  • You can defer selling your home to pay your care fees until after your death.
  • If you’re paying for your own care, you can ask the council to arrange your services for you. It can only charge you as much as someone whose care they are funding.
  • If you’re a carer, you have a legal right to a care assessment from the local council. You can also get support services if you qualify for them.
  • If you find it difficult to communicate or to understand the issues being discussed, the council must provide an advocate to help you when discussing your care. They will represent your interests if you don’t have a friend or relative who can help
  • The council must provide preventative services that could reduce or delay your need for care. For example, intermediate care at home after a hospital stay could help keep you independent for longer.

Ways it may affect you from April 2016:

  • It becomes even more important to get a needs assessment, as the council will then set you up with a care account. This tracks the amount of money spent on your eligible care needs. The word ‘eligible’ is important as it only includes the needs covered by your assessment. So if you decide to hire a cleaner but the needs assessment doesn’t say you need this help, the cost of that won’t be included.
  • There will be a cap on how much you have to spend on your care needs. Anything you or the council spend on your eligible needs will be added up in your care account. Once it reaches £72,000, the council will pay for all your eligible needs. This excludes your daily living costs, which include things like your food and accommodation in a care home.
  • The council can reassess your care needs, even if you pay for your own care. This is because the council works out how much your care should cost to meet your eligible needs, and adds this up in your care account. It needs to check every so often that the amount it thinks you should be spending is still right.
  • New rules about top-up fees in care homes mean you may be able to pay them yourself. Top-up fees may apply if you move into a care home that costs more than the council can pay.
  • If you’re not happy about a decision, you have a new right to complain and appeal it, and for this to be independently investigated.


                         For more information:
Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 6565

To all carers

You  can obtain local support at the Ealing Carers – details on a previous blog

When you’re caring for someone it’s easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and manage better with your caring role.

Your health

Tell your GP you’re a carer, and discuss the impact this is having on your own health. They will be able to offer you advice and support, and you may be entitled to additional health services such as a free annual flu jab if the person you care for has a serious or ongoing health problem.
Although it can be difficult, try to make sure that you eat healthily, stay active and get enough sleep.

Don’t feel like you need to do everything yourself. If you have relatives who live nearby, try to be honest with them if you need a hand or want to share the responsibility.

I’m Emotional health

Don’t overlook your emotional health. Family and friends, carers’ groups , your GP or counsellor, or organisations like Samaritans can all provide you with space to talk about how you’re feeling.


If you care for someone with dementia, it can be hard to share any feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger with them, leaving you feeling isolated. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and remember there’s no right or wrong way to feel.


Your social life

It’s a good idea to take up a hobby or activity, such as going to an exercise group or an evening class, if you can. Taking part in an activity you enjoy will give you the opportunity to do something for yourself – it’s important that you have your own interests and make time to pursue them where you can.

Your local library can provide information about social activities, events, education and courses. The University of the Third Age (U3A) can also tell you about courses in your area.

Please refer to a previous blog


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imageRecently I had an email from a patient asking if I would  support them in attending a course with MindFood. I had to admit I didn’t know what this was about and emailed Ed Harkness from MindFood to let me know what this was all about. After reading about it on the website I asked if I could blog about as not only was I interested in this venture but I would like to promote it.​

MindFood has a vision to see people with mental health issues recover, find healing and go on to achieve their potential through growing and selling food.

They run a sensory market garden in Ealing West London
They offer people with a wide range of mental health issues a therapeutic environment where those attending can learn to sow, plant and grow a variety of fruit and vegetables.
They then go on to sell ‘food that’s good for your mood’ into local communities.

I have to say I am a keen gardener and have been all my life- I have never been  far from a garden and if is no coincidence that the consulting room looks out on a garden. I remember as a small child having a patch to grow vegetables and there was nothing more thrilling than watching things grow and even  more exciting tasting the crops . I always enjoyed growing kale, spinach and sprouting purple broccoli as they all guarantee a good productive harvest from a small packet of seeds. It amuses me now to hear my children telling me now to buy them because they are today’s superfoods! Kale chips are a strong favourite- simply bake prepared kale with olive oil or even better coconut oil at 180F  for about 15 minutes and sprinkle some chilli and paprika and sea salt on them –  delicious family favourite.

My dear uncle was a gardener for the Council and had been brain damaged after a very traumatic birth but he had a major influence on my love for gardening. He could barely read or write but he knew how to garden. He could make frozen peas grow – nothing better than his homegrown Birds Eye peas! He could tell you the colour of a tulip by the bulb and prune a tree skillfully. I loved being with him in the garden and learnt so much from him but most of all I loved the peaceful atmosphere that I felt as we chatted and worked together.

When I was in Wales as a GP it was not unusual for me to be summoned from the garden, toss of my wellies to visit a patient when I was on all each weekend. Patients knew of my interest and when they came with their various complaints would also be asking about the state of the garden or pass on tips to get rid of blight, slugs or the like.

It has been my greatest joy since I have partially retired to do more gardening. I am aware of the hours of pleasure gardening has  given me over many years,  a chance to unwind, get rid of inner frustrations by digging and a sense of achievement after weeding an overrun flowerbed or harvesting crops. I am writing this after a day in the garden – trimming the conservation hedge I planted a 3 years ago and now well established providing food and homes for several families of birds. I planted my spinach and purple sprouting broccoli along with other vegetables and will look forward again to gathering the crops later this year and weeded my herb garden.

My garden last year – summer 2014. I have created this over the past 3 years since my partial retirement and it has become my Paradise.


I was delighted when my half Danish grandson decided to call me ‘Drangma’  which is the Danish for ‘ big digger’. He obviously felt it was appropriate as one of our main activities together has been digging in the garden.

It is not surprising that I was so pleased to hear about this project which supports all that I would say about gardening.


I strongly commend this course to anyone who has had moderate or severe depression and for anyone else to either look at the website or visit the site to consider volunteering to help support ythisworthwhile project.

MindFood CIC
Cleveley Crescent,
W5 1DZ

MindFood is launching a new ‘Growing Wellbeing’ 6 week course that focuses on the 5 ways to wellbeing in a food growing environment. The course is designed to be a fun balance of learning how to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables whilst becoming more mindful of ways to improve our wellbeing.

The course is action orientated so each week we’ll discuss and commit to a specific action that will help improve our wellbeing between each session and ongoing after the course.

The five ways to wellbeing are 5 simple and practical steps that we can all take to improve our levels of wellbeing. The graphic below is an outline of the 5 ways to wellbeing and an indication of how this course will help you to engage with each one. s the course right for me?

Do you feel that poor mental health is having a negative impact on your quality of life? This course is aimed at people who experience mild to moderate depression, anxiety and other common mental health problems. The course is also for people who want to help prevent the onset of mental ill health e.g. an episode of depression.

When does the course run?

Our courses runs on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. The next course starts on the 12th June. (Please note lunch is not provided)

Where is the course based?

We are based in Ealing, West London on a group of allotments which are a 5 minute walk from Hanger Lane Tube station or on bus routes 83, 112, 226, 95, 487. A map of our location can be found here.

What is the cost of the course?

The 6-week course costs £30 (£5 per session). The course is subsidised through the support of MindFood’s funders.

How do I sign up?

Please register your interest or direct any queries by emailing
Alternatively you can complete the referral form and send to Ed so that we can assess whether this course would be suitable for your needs.

How many people will be on the course?

The course is limited to 6 places.

Are there other courses or opportunities that MindFood offers?

Upon completion of the 6-week course you will have the opportunity to join MindFood’s Plot to Plate programme that offers longer-term opportunities to be part of our ecotherapy social enterprise.


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The Expert Patients Programme (EPP) is a self-management programme for people living with a chronic (long-term) condition. The aim is to support people by:

  • increasing their confidence
  • improving their quality of life
  • helping them manage their condition more effectively

What is an expert patient?

Many GPs who care for people with chronic condtions say that the patient often understands the condition better than they do. This is not surprising – many patients become experts as they learn to cope with their chronic conditions.

There is evidence that, with proper support, people with a chronic condition can take the lead in managing their condition. This helps improve their health and quality of life, and reduces their incapacity.

An expert patient is someone who:

  • feels confident and in control of their life
  • aims to manage their condition and its treatment in partnership with healthcare professionals
  • communicates effectively with professionals and is willing to share responsibility for treatment
  • is realistic about how their condition affects them and their family
  • uses their skills and knowledge to lead a full life

This week we had an email informing us that this programme is due to start this month


Our first Expert Patient Programme has now been booked:

Dates:      19th May to 23rd June ( 6 consecutive Tuesday evenings)

Time:        6pm – 8.30pm

Location:  Hanwell Community Centre, Small Meeting Room, Westcott Crescent, Hanwell,

London W7 1PD

Interested participants contact the course provider directly to register interest either calling or emailing as shown above



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As a child I can never remember being taken to the doctor or calling a doctor out unless it was something very serious such as tonsillitis or my mother having pneumonia or my father having a burst ulcer.Every year, millions of us visit our GP with minor health problems that our local pharmacist could resolve.

It is estimated that every year, 50 million visits to the GP are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, mild eczema and athlete’s foot.
But by visiting your pharmacy instead, you could save yourself time and trouble.
Instead of booking and waiting for a GP appointment, you can visit your local pharmacist any time – just walk in.

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All pharmacists can recognise many common health complaints.

They can give advice or where appropriate medicine(s) that will help clear up the problem.

ÎIf your problem is more serious and needs the attention of a GP, your pharmacist will recognise this and advise you to see your GP instead.
What’s more, many pharmacies are open in the evenings and on the weekends.
If everybody went to a pharmacist with common health problems, more time would be freed up for our GPs. This might make it easier to get a convenient appointment with your GP next time you need one.
So, if you have a common health problem, a trip to your local pharmacy is an option.


  • With this in mind the Ealing Community Commissioning Group ( ECCG) have created the Minor ailments Service to allow patients to access treatment for various minor ailments from their local pharmacy.
  • Instead of booking an appointment with your GP you can receive a free consultation with your pharmacist who is a registered health care professional.
  • If you normally receive free prescriptions then your treatments will be free.
  • If you pay for your prescriptions you will not be charged more than the retail cost of the item.

If  it is necessary they will refer you to another health care professional – using this service does not affect your access to other services.


Anyone who is registered with a GP practice withe the Ealing CCG ( although other CCG throughout the country have adopted similar schemes)

To provide proof or registration you must provide ONE of the following:-

  •   leaflet stamped by your GP practice 
  •   repeat section of a prescription that states the name and address of your GP practice
  •   an NHS card
  •   child health red book with details of GP practice

You will then be given a Minor Ailments Passport  by the pharmacist which is used to record up to FIVE visits. You can hold on to this and take it to any pharmacy for treatment. When this is completed you can give it back to the pharmacist and can be given another one for further treatments.

Some age groups and people with additional conditions may not be able to receive treatment under this scheme – the pharmacist will discuss this with you and signpost you to an appropriate  health care professional.


If you are suffering from any of the conditions below you may be able to obtain treatment:-

* ATHLETES FOOT                                                       * INSECT BITES/ STINGS

* CONJUNCTIVITIS ( Bacterial)                                   * MOUTH ULCERS

* CONSTIPATION                                                          * MUSCULAR -SKELETAL PAIN, SPRAINS/ STRAINS

* CONTACT DERMATITIS                                             * NAPPY RASH

* CYSTITIS                                                                     * NASAL CONGESTION 

* DIARRHOEA                                                                * SCABIES

* EAR  WAX                                                                    * SORE THROAT

* FEVER                                                                          * TEETHING 

* HAY FEVER                                                                 * THREADWORMS 

* HEAD LICE                                                                  * VAGINAL THRUSH

* HEARTBURN / INDIGESTION                                    * WARTS/ VERRUCAE


The following pharmacists in the local Ealing area have signed up for the Minor Ailments Service. 


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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Training and Advice


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Last year I attended an interesting lecture from a doctor that had recently been diagnosed with dementia. What impressed me was not only her courage at being able to talk about the subject but the fact that having been diagnosed in the early stages she was able to get her affairs in order and have some say in how she wanted to spend the rest of her life as well as share with others what her thoughts were about her future.

She was taking medication which can slow the disease down considerably. Moreover, the understanding and care of patients with Dementia has improved remarkably in the past 5 years. When I wrote about my mother 2 years ago it had only just been recognised the importance of Advanced Care Planning and my sister and I were able to have similar conversations with her so that she was able to have some say in where she was to live for the rest of her days, have a say in who should have her treasured possessions and even make personal similar requests such as ‘you will pluck out any facial hair, keep my hair tidy, my nails manicured, and make sure I wear  my favourite make up’ She wanted to remain smartly dressed and maintain a neat appearance this was important to her. We fulfilled her wishes as far as possible and she died wearing her usual make up, her favourite perfume, hair set and permed and wearing a clean, new nightdress. She had pictures of her family around her and playing the music she loved most.


When I recently went to see ‘Still Alice’ at the cinema not only was the acting of Julianne Moore worthy of an Oscar Award but it demonstrated how a family can be involved in the care of a relative with progressive dementia. In  the case of Alice it was a rare form of dementia which particularly strikes those of a young age, but nevertheless the message was the same. It was a compelling and emotional account of a family overwhelmed with a disease which affects all family members in many different ways,  sometimes dividing but also drawing everyone together with the common desire to help fulfil the individual’s life to the end as the person that everyone knows slowly disappears but somehow remains present.

If someone you know is becoming increasingly forgetful, you should encourage them to see their GP to talk about the early signs of dementia. If it is a relative may be accompany them . We usually screen them first by an array of blood tests to exclude simple causes which are easily treatable. If we are concerned about their cognitive function following a mini- mental health test we then refer to a older persons consultant who performs more mental tests s well as a MRI brain scan before coming to a definitive diagnosis.

Dementia is a syndrome (group of related symptoms) that indicate problems with the brain. There are several types of dementia.


One of the most common symptoms is memory loss. While there are other reasons someone might be experiencing memory loss, if dementia is detected early, in some cases its development can be slowed and the person affected may maintain their mental function. The typical features of memory loss are :-

Struggling to remember recent events
Problems following conversations
Forgetting the names of friends or objects
Repeating yourself
Problems with thinking or reasoning
Confusion in familiar places


In Ealing we have a very supportive group ‘Dementia Concern ‘ which is a group of people who support and help in the many aspects of caring for a person with dementia. Carers as we all know are amazing people who day by day and of often night after night perform the vital job of caring for someone who would fail to manage in their own home without them. They help maintain their dignity, their personal hygiene and those individual demands and requests we all have.

refer to their website to find out how they help and when the Dementia Cafe is open.

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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Training and Advice


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Are you or do you know someone who is finding it difficult to get to the GP surgery?


Healthwatch Ealing is the new independent consumer champion created to gather and represent the views of the public In Ealing. Healthwatch will play a role at national, regional and local level and will make sure that the views of the public and people who use services are taken into account.

Address: Healthwatch Ealing, Lido Centre 63 Mattock Lane West Ealing
London W13 9LA United Kingdom


There are many elderly or disabled people who find it difficult to get to their GP’s surgery for routine visits as there is no public transport, taxis are expensive and they don’t have friends or family available to take them. By attending the surgery they can see the GP who will have easy access to their medical records, be able to see other health care professionals as well as the fact that appropriate examinations  are often much easier to perform and a chaperone is usually available. For some this may be a welcome social outing!

To address this the Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group are providing the  ECT with funding for the following pilot project.

PlusBus for Health

What is PlusBus for Health and can I use it?

PlusBus for Health is a new trial service offered by ECT to transport people to and from GP surgeries. The service aims to reduce the number of GP house calls and no-shows at surgeries, and simultaneously improve the well-being of patients by providing the opportunity to leave their homes and increase social contact.

The service is not currently available to everyone. GP surgeries are referring people who are eligible to ECT.

This is a shared service which will run to provide FREE transport for as many people as possible.

To find out more, please speak to your GP to see if they are taking part in the trial, or alternatively call 020 8813 3214 or email

NB we are participating in this trial

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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Training and Advice


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We have all been introduced to singing since we were born and most parents we will be delighted when they hear their child sing a familiar song for the first time and leap to record the moment. It is just as delightful when you hear your grandchild sing and singing to your grandchild even if your singing voice is limited is always appreciated and met with the  words ‘again, again’ !

As a schoolgirl  I associated  singing with warbling, middle aged women with blue rinses and clearly remember having learn to sing ‘Blow the wind Southerly’ by Kathleen Ferrier as an 8 year old !  I was in the school choir because I liked singing not because I had any musical talent!  Then there was the evolution of pop music And musical shows and then the doors opened wide and  singing for pleasure in the home took on a new light. After all I followed the generation where families used to sing around the piano at home but now it was singing with the radio or TV.

My children have known pop music since an early age and sing-a-longs with the radio on the school run were an important start to the day,  amusing many a commuter as they sidled up alongside us on the Great West Road. Now there are an overwhelming number of genres of music,  which has led to a wider range of choirs than ever before – gospel, rock, church, barbershop, beatbox  to name a few. You can find choirs who do popular chart hits arranged for choir, songs from the shows, or traditional folk music so that singing in choirs has become more popular.

In previous blogs I have alluded to the benefits of singing for patients with dementia and  the feel-good effects of singing in helping in depression. However, experts now believe that joining a choir could improve the symptoms of a range of health problems including Parkinson’s, depression and lung disease.

At a conference of the Royal Society for Public Health, Grenville Hancox, professor of music at The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, Canterbury, described the changes that can take place through singing together as “extraordinary”.
He told how he and colleagues have witnessed people with respiratory problems learning to breathe more easily, those with depression beating the blues and patients with Parkinson’s disease standing tall and singing loudly.
Prof Hancox is the founder of Skylarks, a new choir for people with Parkinson’s. This disorder of the central nervous system makes normal movements difficult and weakens the voice as the muscles in the face and vocal chords deteriorate. Prof Hancox and his colleague Stephen Clift, the centre’s professor of health education, are undertaking research to find out if choral singing can help with Parkinson’s symptoms, especially those affecting the voice, with choir members undergoing computer-assisted acoustical voice analysis at the start and finish of the study.


Ian MacDonald, voice specialist with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, reported to have said that it is logical that singing can help in this way. “The vocal cords are muscles,” he says. “By exercising them, you increase tone and restrict tremor, and the voice is less jittery. Singing warms the muscles up – just as athletes warm up theirs.” Being required to stand tall when performing may also improve core strength and benefit these patients.

As Professor Hancox and his colleagues have claimed they have witnessed people with COPD , a debilitating respiratory disease  learn to breathe more easily.  Around the world an estimated 64 million people are struggling to breathe on a daily basis.  The World Health Organization expects COPD to be the third leading cause  could potentially help so many people 

Sonia Page, the specialist respiratory nurse who is leading the current Singing for Breathing choir at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London says it has helped people with COPD “gain greater control of their breathlessness instead of being at the mercy of it.”

Patients have also reported improved respiratory stamina, reduced impact of chest infections and improvements in sleep apnoea (a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep). Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, a consultant chest physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, notes that singing cannot reverse the lung damage caused by COPD, but it can still be of benefit.
COPD patients have difficulty emptying the air from their lungs (known as gas trapping), he says, which is why they suffer from shortness of breath – a problem made worse if they panic and start to hyperventilate.
“Singing may help these patients to improve their posture and learn techniques to help control their breathing. In particular, by breathing out more slowly they give their lungs more time to empty, reducing gas trapping,” says Dr Hopkinson.

The free weekly singing classes held at both Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals are open to all respiratory  at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust to help them relax and learn new breathing techniques.

The sessions are organised by the arts team at the hospital and are funded by charitable donations. The course leaders hope to enhance existing support for respiratory patients with an enjoyable, informal exercise, that teaches a better understanding of breath control through the use of the voice.
Two of the longest-standing members of the singing groups are Harold Dearing, who has asthma and has had several operations on his heart, and John Turner who has COPD. John has been coming once a week to the Brompton Hospital since 2010 and is passionate about the benefits of singing.
“It helps us feel much, much better. Although singing therapy can’t cure the lung damage caused by acute respiratory conditions such as COPD, the combination of breathing exercises and song can help people with breathing difficulties cope better with their disability.”
“Doing everyday ordinary activities becomes increasingly difficult for people with lung problems,” says John. “I find singing gets your lungs working better, you get out of the house, you meet people and you become a social animal again.”
“Way back in 2002 when I was diagnosed with emphysema, it was suggested I would soon need oxygen. Well I haven’t yet needed it and I think this is very largely due to singing.”
Singing to build confidence
Harold Dearing has been with a singing group for three years. As a teenager, he’d sung in a choir, so when he saw the Harefield course advertised he decided to give it a go.
“Every time I go it’s beneficial. I enjoy the exercises, but it’s especially nice to be together singing. It’s confidence-building. The teachers make it fun and make sure you’re in your comfort zone.”

Angela Reith, a music therapist who runs the sessions at the Harefield hospital says she sees several benefits.
“Some find that by the end of the session they breathe more easily. Others benefit especially on a social level. They have a good time and if you’re happy with yourself you can cope better with your condition,” says Angela.
Singing’s feel-good factor
Joanna Foster who runs the sessions at Royal Brompton agrees about the feel-good factor of singing in a group. “Singing together is not just exercises. It’s fun and it releases endorphins.”
Each of the sessions involves breathing exercises and singing. Starting with gentle upper body stretches, the group then practice making different sounds as they exhale such as sighs and fake laughter.
“It’s the same techniques that actors and professional singers use to warm up their voices and overcome nerves,” says Joanna.
This then leads into singing whole songs, learning them in chunks and eventually – depending on the size of the group – singing rounds and harmonies.
A survey of 500 patients taking part in the singing workshops at Royal Brompton and Harefield found that 70% felt markedly physically better after the workshops.

Joining a choir is by no means a conventional solution for such a serious illness.

The research team from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent felt they had good reason to investigate the effects  on COPD and singing and showed that the benefits are real. Dr Ian Morrison, a senior research fellow and one of the project’s authors, said: “Lung function improved dramatically, particularly after about five months, once people had got used to what they were doing and changed their breathing habits.

It has been observed that people with breathing problems tend to develop a lot of anxiety about the very process of inhaling.  The tendency is to do ‘gaspy’ breathing so they’re taking short little breaths. This actually fills up the lungs without clearing them, making it even more difficult to breathe. Due to their obstructed airways, many people with COPD already find emptying their lungs a challenge.Gasping makes the problem worse and can, in the most serious cases, lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood, which can result in respiratory failure.

In contrast, the techniques used in singing encourage people to breathe in a much deeper, more controlled manner.The whole musculature around the lungs, throat and the upper chest improve with time,” says Dr Morrison. They use what they have much better and you really see a difference in the skill of actually breathing.”

To test its effects, Morrison and his colleagues asked over 100 COPD patients – ranging from mild to severely affected – to attend weekly singing sessions over a 12-month period.They measured their lung capacity with a device known as a spirometer – which looks a bit like a giant breathalyser – and asked participants to fill in a questionnaire to find out on a qualitative level how they were feeling. One of the tests involved measuring how much air a person could force out in a rapid puff. ( Peak Flow Meter)


On average the people in our study had 50% of expected lung function,” said Prof Stephen Clift, the study’s lead author. “That means about 1.5 litres of air in a one second puff. For healthy lungs, we would expect something more like 3 litres.” Without treatment, people with COPD can expect to see the size of their puff decrease by around 40ml a year.The very best the team had hoped for was that after singing regularly for one year, the size of that puff would stay the same.

Instead we got an increase of 30ml,” says Prof Clift.

“Although the changes are small, the progressive nature of COPD means that any loss of function year-on-year is going to be more significant for them.

“In our study, we not only appeared to halt the decline but people showed a small improvement.”

Dr Morrison added: “There’s also the social and psychological side, because any long term condition is isolating.

A recent Swedish study published in the journal Integrative Physiological and Behavioural Science suggested that it not only increases oxygen levels in the blood but triggers the release of “happy” hormones such as oxytocin, which is thought to help lower stress levels and blood pressure.

Singing has all the benefits mentioned so far and can also be very helpful in improving speech which has become slurred and unclear as a result of Parkinson’s. These same breathing exercises can prevent decline and marginally improve lung function in serious lung disease.

Breathing exercises and vocal techniques used when singing can help with:

  • sustaining the voice
  • increasing and controlling volume
  • varying pitch and expression
  • improving diction
  • controlling vocal speed
  • increasing the fluidity of diction
  • improving Posture

Not surprisingly there are a growing number of informal singing groups for people with Parkinson’s or other illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s. The opportunity to work on vocal and breathing techniques in an informal setting with people who share similar difficulties can be a valuable social activity and can help with self-confidence and overcoming Depression. And you don’t generally need to be able to sing to participate because such groups are not usually choirs and most do not give performances.

Typical singing activities which can help with improving posture, breath work and diction include:

  • taking your voice ‘for a walk’ up and down in pitch
  • lifting the tongue to the roof of the mouth
  • practicing trills (rapid alternation between two adjacent notes of a scale) with lip and tongue
  • making different types of sighs
  • humming
  • echoing tunes
  • singing in rounds (one voice starts and others join in one after another until all are singing different parts of the same song at the same time)
  • experimenting with a variety of pitch, pace and mood in songs.

Singing techniques have also been used to aid fluidity of speech and combat stuttering: Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) uses song phrases to retrieve speech when this has been lost or weakened. Group singing can give a social outlet and boost self-confidence in people who tend to withdraw socially due to slurred speech and weakening articulation

Prof Clift and Prof Hancox believe the health benefits of belonging to a choir, for some chronic conditions will become indisputable. “There are examples of arts on prescription and gym on prescription,” argues Prof Hancox. “How about singing on prescription, too?”

If after reading this you want to have singing lessons or join a choir try your local church, community centre or school. I have listed some ideas below of various choirs in and around Ealing.


Ealing Choral Society,

This is one of London’s best choirs: they are an amateur choir, performing with world-class orchestras and soloists in Ealing, as well as Central London and occasionally abroad.


Questors Theatre Choir

imageAnd for more information about joining, read the Why not sing with us? section.

Contact us here or phone 020 8816 7734 / 07802 720333

We are a 60-strong mixed voice choir based in West London, England, and affiliated to Questors Theatre.


Ealing Common Choir

imageThis was formerly Ealing Common Choir. Singers are welcome and ideally  can read music and sight-read a simple line. You’ve probably sung on and off all your life. Contact us or just come along to a rehearsal on a Thursdays at St Matthews Church, Ealing Common. Further details:-


Gospel choir/Singology


Singology is a vocal coaching company setup by Mark De-Lisser in 2000 to provide singing opportunities and tuition to people of all ages. With a strong tradition of choral singing, Singology has now launched ‘Singology Choirs’ to encourage more and more people to get involved in community singing, which has been proven to increase confidence, social cohesion and can also be used as a diversionary activity for young people in the community.

Monday Ealing 7:30pm – 9:30pm Ealing Town Hall, W5 2BY 12th Jan – 23rd Mar

Singology choirs throughout London are joining together to sing at the Royal Festival Hall.


The Ealing Rock Choir

image             Grange Primary School,
Church Gardens, Ealing, London, W5 4HN

The Ealing Rock Choir is led by singer/pianist Christina Clark. We have a great year lined up and we would like to invite you to join our choir and take part in the local Ealing and wider London community. We are the Ealing rehearsal of the trailblazing Rock Choir. We often team up with the other local London choirs to perform in much bigger choral groups. These inspirational moments are unique to the Rock Choir experience. It’s unbelievable and you can still join the choir. Just like a gym class or amateur dramatic society, your Rock Choir rehearsal provides an escape from everyday life. One evening a week during term time, your time is completely your own, to do nothing but sing your heart out with friends whilst enjoying our trailblazing formula of fun, friendship and feel-good music. Book a FREE singing taster session at the Ealing Rock Choir and see for yourself!

There’s no pressure to perform if you don’t want to – it’s all about having fun and enjoying some well-deserved ‘me time’. – See more at:

The Ealing Rock Choir singing at the Minack theatre, Cornwall. This is a fascinating outdoor theatre with an intriguing story.


Addison Singers

imageThe Addison Singers comprises two classical choirs – an auditioned Chamber Choir and larger non-auditioned Oratorio Choir; and two jazz choirs – an auditioned Jazz Ensemble and a larger non-auditioned all-female Jazz Choir. It also offers three different singing classes to meet the needs of beginners, intermediate and the more competent, experienced singer.


Or if or if all else fails try some Kareoke or sing- a – long with the TV or radio


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Posted by on February 8, 2015 in Training and Advice


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  • imageAs temperatures fall and there are threats of snow we are all aware that our heating bills will rise  but you yourself or there may be others living near you who will be struggling financially or are ill prepared for the cold weather and this will be detrimental to their health.

  • Are you aware of the appropriate healthy temperature in your home? Ealing Council provide these thermometers.

Thermometer COSIE

 Stay warm

Save energy

The COSIE project, Cold Weather Support in Ealing, aims to help counteract the threat of deaths and hospital admissions during the winter months. Do you know someone who needs its help?

It offers advice, help and support for vulnerable people whose health may be affected by cold homes. The project is running on a first come, first served basis from February to the end of April, as long as funds last. In Ealing it is being managed by the council’s sustainability team.

Sustainability officer Janet Rudge said: “An estimated 14,500 households in Ealing are ‘fuel poor’, meaning they cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. The COSIE programme targets those who are particularly vulnerable to ill health as a consequence of cold homes. Good energy advice can help people to save energy and money, keep warmer and help them access support available to improve their homes and avoid fuel debt.”

You can refer anyone who you consider to be vulnerable in one or more of the following categories:

*More than 75 years old on pension benefits.

*People < 75years old with disabilities or long term conditions.

*People on low income (in receipt of income-related benefits), including those with young children < 5years of age.

*People whose health is threatened by poor heating conditions – or leaving hospital to return to a poorly heated home (in receipt of income-related benefits, or discretionary for emergency situations).

You can call the COSIE referral line

(0800 083 2265 – available from 9.39am until 5.30pm)

to discuss eligibility and if appropriate to arrange a home visit from a qualified energy advisor, the Green Doctor. Applications can also be made on- line



Qualifying residents could also benefit from free home visits by ‘Green Doctors’ who can offer tailored energy advice and support, including winter warmth packs with home and personal heating accessories such as fleece blankets, thermal socks and flasks. Energy saving measures, such as draught-proofing, low energy light bulbs and reflective radiator panels could also be provided.


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