Q & A

Here’s the answers to questions you might have about the Taskforce.

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Why is a Taskforce for Lung Health needed?

Alongside heart disease and non-respiratory cancer, lung disease is one of the UK’s three biggest killers. And while mortality from heart disease and many non-respiratory cancers is falling, the number of people killed each year by lung disease is staying the same.

There are some good quality and effective services in England, but we lag behind other European countries and not enough progress is being made, quickly enough. We believe more can, and should, be done to improve lung health.

The Taskforce brings together the most influential voices in lung health from across the country to unite behind a single five year plan for the improvements needed from prevention right through to end-of-life care.

Is the Taskforce independent of government?

Yes, the group is independent of government. NHS Rightcare, an NHS England supported programme, is a member of the Taskforce, providing their expertise about delivering the best care to patients, making NHS money go as far as possible and improving patient outcomes. 

What is the objective of the Taskforce?

The initial objective of the Taskforce was to develop a five-year plan for improving lung health in England, endorsed by the whole respiratory community. The plan was launched in December 2018 and it sets out 43 recommendations for what changes need to be made in the next five years. The focus of the Taskforce now is to influence policy makers and services to implement the recommendations.

What is the key change that the Taskforce wants to see happen?

We want our plan for improving lung health across all services to be implemented in full by all relevant bodies, including NHS England, Public Health England and local authorities.

How is this Taskforce different from anything that has existed previously?

More representatives than ever before, from across the respiratory community, are teaming up to understand how to improve lung health. That’s different to anything that has existed before. The five year plan looks across all areas of lung health and includes the most up-to-date best practice evidence from across the UK. This has not previously been available in one place.

How are patients involved in the Taskforce?

There are eight people representing those living with a lung condition on the Taskforce, and two people representing carers. Taskforce member organisations, including Asthma + Lung UK, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Mesothelioma UK, Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust, Sarcoidosis UK and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, represent and work regularly with people affected by lung disease.

What is Asthma + Lung UK’s role in the Taskforce?

The Taskforce is owned by the members, which include Asthma + Lung UK (previously known as the British Lung Foundation). In addition, Asthma + Lung UK provides the secretariat: employing two senior policy and project managers (job share), a Taskforce funded policy and project officer to oversee delivery of the project, and a senior health data analyst to oversee the development of the Lung Health Data Tracker.

How is the pharmaceutical industry involved?

Representatives from pharmaceutical, diagnostics, devices and digital industries make up an Industries Forum that contributes to the work of the Taskforce. In 2018 the Industries Forum provided evidence and data to help shape the five-year plan. From 2019, the Industries Forum members represent industry views in the four Taskforce Working Groups. The Industries Forum has no editorial control over the activities of the Taskforce or Working Groups. A number of the members of the Industries Forum are providing financial backing to the Taskforce.

Does lung disease just affect smokers?

Anyone can get lung disease. Although smoking is a major risk factor and not smoking is the biggest thing we can all do to keep our lungs healthy, poor air quality, workplace dusts and chemicals, and genetic susceptibility can also cause lung disease. But in some cases, there’s no clear cause. No matter what the cause, it’s important that everyone gets the treatment and support they need.

Hasn’t lung health recently been made a priority issue for the NHS?

Yes, in early 2019 the NHS published a new Long-Term Plan for England, which sets out what the health service will do over the next decade, with an extra £20bn of funding available each year to help make it happen. It’s great news that for the first time lung health is one of only five disease areas being prioritised.

What does the NHS Long-Term Plan set out for lung health?

The NHS plan focuses on four main areas for lung health. First of all, it proposes new ways of getting diagnosis right. This means that when people go to their GP with breathlessness or a cough that won’t go away, they should be referred for the right tests as quickly as possible. Secondly, it wants health care workers to support people to manage their own condition, so they can keep doing the things that are important to them. Thirdly, the plan recommends making pulmonary rehabilitation available to people who need it. Fourthly, it emphasises the need to make sure people are on the right medicines for them and that they are taking these in the right way. Finally, the new plan also covers prevention and commits more money to help people in hospital quit smoking and promises to reduce the amount of air pollution which is caused by the NHS.

It’s a positive start but the plan doesn’t go far enough. The Taskforce is focused on influencing policy makers and services to make sure all of the Taskforce’s recommendations are put in place.

Why has the Taskforce established Working Groups?

After the Taskforce five-year plan was published, the members turned their attention to implementing the recommendations in the plan. They felt that the best way to do this was to create separate Working Groups, made up of members of the Taskforce and Industries Forum with relevant expertise. The topics covered by the Working Group topics were chosen because they were the areas members felt they could best influence to start with.

Early diagnosis, using medicines correctly, and pulmonary rehabilitation were all areas which are already focused on in the Long-Term Plan, so members felt these would be good places to start. However, the Working Groups will be looking at policy areas which go beyond those in the Long-Term Plan, making the case for more far-reaching changes to improve services and outcomes for patients. The data tracker Working Group was set up to look at how we can track and display progress against the Taskforce recommendations.