Saving Your Breath: A Blueprint for Change
Welcome to the latest Taskforce blog, giving an overview of, “Saving Your Breath: How Better Lung Health Benefits Us All”, a collaborative effort by the Taskforce for Lung Health and A+LUK. This report sheds light on the urgent need to reshape our approach to lung health in the UK. It not only identifies the challenges we face but also offers practical recommendations for meaningful change. We hope this will be a useful resource for Taskforce members in their own campaigns.
The Reality Check
The report finds lung conditions represent a significant burden on both the healthcare system and the economy, costing the UK a staggering £13.8 billion. Of this, £9.6 billion directly impacts the NHS. Unfortunately, the UK currently has the highest lung disease death rate in Europe. This crisis is exacerbated by slow progress in improving lung health, leading to increasing hospital admissions and avoidable deaths.
Obstacles in Our Path
The report highlights several obstacles in the path to better lung health. Both healthcare professionals and the general population remain insufficiently informed about lung conditions, leading to delayed diagnoses and treatment outcomes. Chronic underinvestment and lack of prioritisation has resulted in a scarcity of effective treatments, leaving patients with inadequate care. Despite established best practices, these are not always followed, contributing to preventable emergency hospital admissions. Lung conditions also disproportionately affect deprived communities due to a range of factors including higher smoking rates, substandard housing, and greater exposure to air pollution.
The Blueprint for Improvement
The report lays out a multifaceted approach to improve lung health across the UK. Firstly, we aim to bolster early diagnosis by implementing comprehensive diagnostic testing, such as spirometry and FeNO testing, offering incentives under the GP contract. Primary care will need to work alongside the establishment of 160 Community Diagnostic Centres (CDCs) across England by 2025. In order to address demand, the CDCs will need to work collaboration with primary care providers with diagnosis delivered in both settings.
Furthermore, promoting healthier lifestyles is pivotal, with a focus on secondary prevention strategies for lung conditions to reduce hospital admissions. Here, we emphasise the importance of adhering to best practice COPD care. Annual reviews and medication checks for all patients with lung conditions are essential components of our plan. These comprehensive assessments encompass vaccinations, personalised self-management plans, and more.
The report highlights the North-South divide in respiratory health outcomes. Areas in the North, particularly Cheshire + Merseyside, South Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester, grapple with higher admissions and pronounced deprivation. It underscores the need for targeted interventions in areas of higher deprivation.
Taking Practical Steps
The “Saving Your Breath” report presents a roadmap to transform lung health in the UK and will form a foundational part of Taskforce advocacy. By advocating for the recommended changes and allocating necessary resources, we can significantly enhance the lives of those living with lung conditions and alleviate the burden on our healthcare system.
Taskforce members will now be using this report in our influencing work, using it to persuade MPs and decision makers in Westminster and beyond that improved lung health can deliver real change for the people who need it most. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Henry is the Chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health