Foreword: Taskforce Chair

Dr Alison Cook, Chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health talks about our work in 2020.

The Taskforce has continued to work tirelessly in 2020, adapting to the difficult and ever-changing circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our primary concern is the exceptional demands placed on people living with lung disease and healthcare professionals. Many services have been seriously disrupted, while others are facing a significant upsurge in demand. Despite this we have been both astounded and humbled by the hard work and dedication of so many in adapting under the most intense of pressures. People living with lung disease and health care professionals have shown immense resilience in adjusting to major changes in their lives, including the delivery of NHS services with the rapid roll-out of remote digital care.

The redeployment of personnel and the reallocation of resources, often at short notice, has included the temporary suspension of many of the policy making forums that the Taskforce is focused on influencing. This has led us to some quick thinking to make sure that we continue to shape policy making and service delivery as effectively as possible.

The Taskforce has responded to the challenges by working at pace to identify the impact of COVID-19 on our work, and agreeing collectively how to re-prioritise the activities of each of our working groups.  Our patient representatives have issued a rally call to policy makers, setting out what matters most to them as a ‘prescription for change’ as the health services continues to react and evolve as a result of COVID-19.

I’m proud of the way the Taskforce team have successfully adapted to home working and each of our four working groups have continued to meet virtually. This has helped us to deliver encouraging progress in 2020 across getting treatment right, prevention, diagnosis and pulmonary rehabilitation.

The Taskforce continues to grow in relevance and influence, our membership has increased, and our media presence has significantly expanded to include regular national broadcast and print coverage.  We are more frequently being asked to provide comment to journalists and our social media reach continues to extend.

We are delighted that the hard work of all our members, and the Taskforce’s impact, has been recognised externally by winning Collaboration of the Year at the Charity Times Awards and being shortlisted for the National Campaign Awards Best Coalition of the Year.

As 2020 draws to a close, our members are worried about the impact of the reallocation of NHS staff and resources from services that would benefit patients with a wide range of lung diseases, being stretched now to support people with COVID-19. The respiratory community has waited for so long for respiratory diseases to be recognised as a national priority in the Long Term Plan, and we remain committed to making sure that the work that is due to be undertaken as part of the NHS Year 1 respiratory programme still takes place, albeit delayed, for the benefit of the many thousands of patients with a wide range of lung diseases. 

Looking ahead to the rest of this year and beyond, the Taskforce will work with renewed focus and vigour to support the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan and the Taskforce’s own recommendations for policy changes and service improvements. We will also be starting work on a campaign to tackle ignorance and prejudice around lung disease. To support our work I’m delighted that Sarah MacFadyen will be joining us as the Taskforce’s Vice-Chair.

Thank you, as always to our members, who collectively give the Taskforce our strong and unified voice on the issues that matter most to people living with lung disease. We look forward to achieving yet more of the recommendations from our five-year plan in 2021.