Published Wed, 2011-11-09 15:08; updated 4 years ago.

Health workers from Sandwell's Community Respiratory Service are taking to the streets as part of a national campaign to highlight the dangers of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) – the world's fourth-biggest killer disease.

The Sandwell team is joining forces with the annual Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) on Wednesday 16 November to try to boost awareness of the disorder and so increase chances of better care and outcome for patients.

"For the majority of people, COPD is caused by smoking," explains senior respiratory clinician Anna McCall. "It is a slow, progressive disease and people can have it for years without realising.

"Many people who have the disease in the mild or early stage dismiss the symptoms as an inevitable sign of becoming out of shape, getting older or think it is just a smoker's cough."

Members of the team, employed by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, are taking the message to two local supermarkets where they hope to encourage shoppers with breathlessness or other symptoms to take a simple on-the-spot "spirometry" test or arrange to have one at their GP's surgery.

"The symptoms to watch out for are easy to spot," says Anna. "If you are a current or ex-smoker, aged over 35 and have one or more symptoms such as a chronic cough, phlegm and breathlessness, it's time for a check-up. If you're short of breath, you may have COPD." 

COPD is a lung disease that kills more people in the UK each year than bowel, breast or prostate cancer. In Sandwell, about 6,000 people have been diagnosed with COPD and there are potentially more than 7,000 people who are unaware they have the condition. 

Anyone wanting to meet with the teams or take part in a potentially life-saving breath test can find them at Asda in Great Bridge, Brickhouse Lane in Tipton between 10am and 4pm or at Morrisons, Holyhead Road, Wednesbury between 9am and 4pm on 16 November.