British Lung Foundation
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Working with COPD

I`ve been diagnosed with copd for the past 8 years, gave up smoking then and have managed to work full-time without a day off sick. However, last November I fell ill with the flu (should have had the jab) and ended up in icu for 3 weeks. I want to go back to work, I`m nearly 60 and have another 4 years until retirement and need the salary. My work got a medical report from my doctors with my permission and now want me to see an occupational therapist for as assessment before they can consider me returning to work and I`m just a bit worried that they may say I am not fit enough and dismiss me. Does anyone else work and if so does it effect your ability to do your job?

7 Replies

You could do to talk to someone on the BLF Helpline about this. Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, 03000 030 555

Under the Disability Discrimination Act your employer needs to make provision for your condition and this may mean a few changes to allow you to continue to do your job. They cannot dismiss you without good reason, they have to show that they made the effort to help.

There are lots of people with lung diseases who carry on working, but everyone is different and what suits one may not be possible for another.


I work and have been self employed for the last 10, which makes it a bit different. I haven't missed work through sickness for something like 13 years. That isn't to say it won't happen in the future though.

Lynne xx


I would say it is completely up to you. If you can still carry out your job there is no reason to stop. You can even continue to work if you are on oxygen - many people do in the United States and I personally know of two people here in the UK who continued working into their fev1 20's range, with concentrators set up at work as well as home, and with portables for use during their journey times.

Make good use of your OT - I believe they can advise your employers on matters such as moving your desk - or even your office - to a more convenient area if it is necessary and 'do-able' . Consider too whether your job, or part of it, could be done from home, whether slightly different hours would suit etc. Try to look at it from all angles before meeting with the OT, and be open to any suggestions from her before dismissing anything out of hand. Also check out exactly where you stand regarding your pension rights etc.

I'm sure I needn't point out that ideally you should not continue if you are in a job that is likely to affect your lungs in anyway. Also be very careful about picking up 'germs' if you are constantly exposed to the public.

I had to give up my job a few years ago when I reached the very severe stage, but I still haven't resigned myself to never working again. If I can get fit enough and someone is happy to take on an 02 user, I will happily work part time.

Good luck in your efforts to stay employed. There are one or two people who use this site who have worked on even in the very severe stages - they will be better able to advise you than myself.


The occupational therapist will probably suggest a phased return to work, i will be doing that after i have finished my rehabilitation course, i made the mistake of returning back to full time after my last flare up, and it took too much out of me my mind was ready to get back to work but my body wasn't to its slowly does it this time.

I am lucky that I have an understanding employer a lot are not.


Interesting read - I'm in a similar position though have been hospitalised every year for the last three years. My employers are very good and we have agreed ways forward such as no more work related travel etc - my job is as sedentary as it gets! However, although I can perform my job well when I'm well it is the amount of time I need off which is problematic and when I return to work in three weeks and see OH what am I to say? No there's nothing further you can do except put up with my absences? Can't see that working well!


This may be shooting off at a tangent,but,10 years ago I was really struggling to carry on with my work ,it was physically,and to some degree quite stressful ,I taught outdoor activities to disabled people ,employed by my local county council.

My consultant felt the work was beyond my capabalities ,but early retirement seemed to be something I could ill-afford .

Fortunately my wife was employed full time ,so the important thingd could be paid but it still appeared that things would be difficult ,however my health came first and I took early retirement.

Health wise it was one of the best things I ever did ,things are much tighter financially certainly ,but one thing that made such a difference was not rushing round in the morning to get to work ,to have time to use inhalers ,nebulisers etc have several cups of tea if needed ,and not rushing round made such a difference.

hope this helps



Thank you all for taking the time to answer my question and I have found your replies helpful. I`m waiting to get my appointment at the moment for the occupational health assessment but will let you know how I get on.


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