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BattleForBreath2June 8 2016

The NHS Health Check should be updated to include lung function assessment, the British Lung Foundation has proposed.

Included in six “crucial” steps to achieve equal prioritisation for lung disease, the BLF says “handheld spirometry could be conducted in all GP consultations with people aged over 35 who smoke and have symptoms of lung disease (identified in NICE guidelines as risk criteria for COPD).” It points out that this is being rolled out in Wales as part of the Respiratory Health Delivery Plan.

In addition, the BLF says primary care professionals “need to be resourced to systematically evaluate common symptoms such as cough and breathlessness and ensure clear and timely onward referral pathways are available when these assessments suggest more complex, uncommon or rarer diseases.”

The recommendations are made in a new report ‘The Battle for Breath’, which looks at the overall extent and impact of lung disease across the UK, and details the impact of 15 major lung conditions.

It highlights that: 

• lung disease is one of the top three killer diseases in the UK
• 115,000 people a year die from lung disease - 1 person every 5 minutes
• mortality figures are roughly the same as 10 years ago, yet heart disease has fallen 15%
• 1 in 5 people in the UK have been diagnosed with a lung disease
• around 550,000 new diagnoses of lung disease are made each year, equivalent to 1,500 new cases each day.

The report calls for new task forces to be established in England and Scotland to draw up five year strategies for tackling lung disease. It also wants respiratory health to be one of the mandated priority areas for strategic clinical networks and for a national respiratory intelligence network to be set up to improve data recording and analysis.

As well as introducing spirometry into the NHS Health Check, the BLF says there should be more investment in awareness campaigns, evidence-based screening and greater diagnostic capacity, as well as action to tackle smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and air pollution.

“Lung disease continues to be a major factor in health inequalities. Someone from the most deprived section of society is two-and-a-half times more likely to have COPD, and nearly twice as likely to develop lung cancer, as someone from the least deprived section of society,” said Professor Sir Michael Marmot, in his foreword to the report.

“Overall, the burden that lung disease places on our nation’s health and health services is immense – on a par with non-respiratory cancer and heart disease. Yet the amount of resources and attention invested in tackling lung disease trails behind these other disease areas.

“Perhaps most tellingly, during a period in which the number of people dying from heart disease in the UK has tumbled, the number of people dying from lung disease has barely changed since the last major report of this kind was published ten years ago.”

Links:

British Lung Foundation announcement

BLF ‘ The battle for breath - the impact of lung disease in the UK’

BLF ‘Lung disease in the UK’ statistics

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