New data from the British Lung Foundation (BLF) has revealed lung disease to be one of the UK’s top three killers behind cardiovascular disease and non-lung cancer.
The report, The Battle for Breath: the Impact of Lung Disease in the UK, found that one person dies of lung disease and five more are diagnosed every five minutes.
Meanwhile, one-in-five have had a lung disease diagnosis in their lifetime.
The three-year epidemiological study is the most comprehensive overview of lung disease since the British Thoracic Society’s Burden of Lung Disease in 2006.
Since then, the report found that the number of people dying from lung disease has barely changed.
For comparison, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease fell by 26,000 between 2008-12 alone.
As it stands, lung disease results in more than 700,000 hospital admissions and six million hospital bed days every year, with only cardiovascular disease accounting for more.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Our report shows that lung disease, alongside cancer and cardiovascular disease, is one of the biggest burdens on UK health services, and one of this country's big three killers.
“Yet a systemic neglect of lung disease, from NHS structures to screening, data collection and research funding, means people affected are being left behind by UK healthcare institutions.
"The number of people dying of lung disease is still as high as it was a decade ago. Without a clear strategy for tackling lung disease, I fear that we will be sat here in ten years’ time regretting yet another decade without sufficient progress.”
She added: “Recent government measures – particularly efforts to tackle smoking – will have a positive impact on rates of lung disease, as they will in other disease areas.
“However, it is a common misconception that lung disease is just a smokers’ condition – many people affected have never smoked. Any effective strategy for tackling lung disease will need to address more than just tobacco.”
In response to the findings, BLF has called for lung health taskforce to draw up a five-year strategy to tackle lung disease and a clinical network to integrate care and reduce regional variation in lung health.
The report also found that lung disease is a major factor in health inequalities, being twice as common in the most 20% of society compared to the lease deprived 20%.
Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, reader in respiratory medicine at Imperial College and honorary consultant physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital, described these finding as “a grave injustice”.
He said: “The Government and the NHS have stated a desire to reduce health inequalities throughout the country. This report confirms that a clear strategy to prevent and tackle lung disease will be essential if we are to achieve this aim.”
The full report and website includes data on mortality, incidence, prevalence, hospital admissions and bed usage across all major respiratory conditions, with international comparison and breakdowns by region, age, gender and levels of social deprivation where data are available.
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