Mr Baxter, 75, is chairman of the Forfar Airways Group, a peer support group affiliated to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland supporting those living with COPD and other chest conditions.
A long-time smoker who finally quit at the age of 60, Ian was diagnosed with COPD in 2004 but had to wait five years before receiving pulmonary rehab. In 2009, he helped set up Forfar Airways to provide exercise, activities and support for others with chest conditions.
“It was a condition I knew nothing about at the time. I didn’t realise I would be living with COPD for a long time and that there were things I could do to make life easier. I asked at the time to get pulmonary rehab, but that didn’t happen until 2009. The problem for people with our condition is there’s nothing after rehab. You get two sessions a week for six weeks. It isn’t long enough to make a difference.
“That’s why a support group is so important because it gives people a social side, too. Forfar Airways first met in the local community hospital and there were nine of us. But we quickly grew in numbers and outgrew the room we had. From 2011, we’ve been meeting in the community fire station in Forfar. Now we have around 30 members.
“We do desperately need new members, but the gateway into membership is the official NHS pulmonary rehab. That way we know new people are fit to exercise because they have completed pulmonary rehab. We also take those referred by their GP. Non-members can also participate, but they must sign a disclosure for safety.
“Pulmonary rehab is absolutely essential for people with COPD. But there’s more the NHS could be doing. The time spent having the scan and speaking to the consultant was the most valuable half-hour I had spent in years. The consultant was terrific and explained that as well as COPD, I also had bronchiectasis, pleural plaques and asbestosis. It’s high time that the NHS gave people a CT scan when they’re diagnosed with COPD so they know exactly what’s wrong with their lungs.”