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National strategy announced for respiratory disease

Plans to transform the care, quality of life and health outcomes for millions of people with respiratory disease have been announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Respiratory diseases represent a major problem in England for patients and the NHS. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is thought to affect more than three million people in England and more than five million people currently receive treatment for asthma.

More people are admitted to hospital in an emergency for respiratory diseases than anything else (12% of all emergency admissions) and COPD is the fifth biggest killer in the UK. It also represents a huge cost for the NHS and for patients - together COPD and asthma cost the NHS more than £2bn a year and COPD alone is responsible for 24 million lost working days.

The Outcomes Strategy for COPD and Asthma will drive improvements in outcomes for patients through the new REACT approach. This coordinates the efforts of the NHS, patients, social care and voluntary organisations can help people avoid lung disease and to lead longer and healthier lives.

The Outcomes Strategy identifies six objectives that will drive work to transform respiratory care within the health and social care system. These are:

  • Better prevention of COPD.
  • Reducing premature death.
  • Improving quality of life.
  • Improving safe and effective care.
  • Reducing the impact of asthma.
  • Reducing inequalities in access to and quality of services.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Once implemented this Outcomes Strategy will help to improve awareness of good lung health, reduce the number of people with respiratory disease and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed. This will reduce the number of deaths by focusing on better prevention, earlier diagnosis and excellent care and management of COPD and asthma.

“We want to liberate the NHS and give staff the freedom to work across boundaries with patients and other professionals to provide a more responsive and personalised NHS.

“This is just the start in helping fundamentally to reduce the burden of respiratory disease and transform for the better the health outcomes and quality of life for millions of people.”

The strategy has been consulted on widely and has been developed with key patient groups including the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK, healthcare professionals from both primary and secondary care as well as patients and carers.

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “We are delighted to welcome the COPD and Asthma Outcomes Strategy. It will offer improved treatment and care to millions of people suffering with these life threatening and debilitating conditions. However, in order to have a real impact we need to see this strategy put into action across the country.

“The BLF will continue to work with the Department of Health to ensure this happens and that anyone affected by COPD and Asthma receives excellent standards of care and treatment wherever they live.”