A new survey by the British Lung Foundation demonstrates how people with a lung disease feel let down by the NHS and paints a heartbreaking picture of sufferers' lives. With death rates from lung disease in the UK twice the European average, the charity says it is time to end the low priority given to lung disease by health services in the UK.
The survey is released with less than three weeks to go before the introduction of the smoking ban in England – a huge step forward in the prevention of smoking-related lung disease. The charity says UK governments must not stop there and must now address the diagnosis, treatment and care of all lung diseases which kill nearly 120,000 people in the UK every year. It points out that many respiratory conditions are caused by genetics, allergies, infections, inadequate lung development in childhood and exposure to harmful substances in the workplace.
In the survey of more than 1,200 people across the UK with lung diseases ranging from asthma to sleep apnoea, nearly half say they face a postcode lottery of treatment and care; over a third highlight a lack of respiratory specialists in the NHS and a quarter say they need better community support to manage their condition. More than half say their greatest wish is to live without fear of an attack of breathlessness.
The survey also reveals that activities such as walking, playing with children or making love are impossible feats for many. A third said they would love to be able to play with their children or grandchildren; nearly a quarter (22%) wish they could have a fully physical loving relationship again; nearly a third (30%) simply long for a good night's sleep. Others wanted to be able to walk, dance or go on holiday.
The charity's chief executive, Dame Helena Shovelton, says: "The smoking ban is a huge step forward in the prevention of smoking-related lung disease, but improvements are needed in the diagnosis, treatment and care of all respiratory problems. Lung disease brings untold suffering to millions of children and adults in the UK. Yet it is the poor relation when it comes to medical research and death rates have seen little improvement in the last 20 years."