A NEW service is being launched to provide support for people suffering from respiratory diseases in one of the worst affected parts of the country.

The new service, to be launched in Derwentside later this month, will include education programmes, nurse-led clinics and an advice line for patients, carers and health care professionals.

Clinics will be set up at Shotley Bridge Community Hospital and Stanley Health Centre at the end of April. Patients will be referred by GPs and practice nurses.

The aim is to prevent unnecessary hospital visits, and improve the quality of life and care of people suffering from diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as helping prevent new cases.

Advice will be on hand for people who want to give up smoking, along with information about other means of preventing respiratory diseases.

Kathryn Dimmick, from the County Durham Primary Care Trust, said it is based on the advice of health care professionals and designed with the needs of their patients in mind.

She said: "The service will offer a comprehensive patient-centred approach to sufferers of respiratory disease.

"The case managers will work closely with GPs, nurses, practice attached staff and the hospital-based respiratory team to allow patients to get the right care by the right person at the right time.

"This new service is a significant step forward to improve the range of services and support available to people locally."

The service will be launched on Wednesday, April 18, at the Derwent Manor Hotel in Allensford.

This event will allow staff from the Primary Care Trust to find out about the service and ask any questions they might have.

Respiratory disease is a serious issue in the North-East, due in part to the industrial legacy of the region.

In Derwentside alone, between 2003 to 2005, deaths from major respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema, were 54 per cent higher than the rest of England, with death rates from asthma 37 per cent higher.

Between 2005 to 2006, the number of people suffering from major respiratory diseases was 67 per cent higher in Derwentside than the rest of England, while cases of asthma were 17 per cent higher.