Taskforce holds inaugural meetings of two new sub-groups 

20 February 2024

Patient representatives, the voluntary sector, and healthcare professionals, alongside members of the Industries Forum, attended the Vaccine and Specialised Medicines Sub-Groups to discuss how we can work together to transform the care of people with lung diseases.  

In the first Vaccine sub-group members discussed how we can shift towards preventative health and ensure that life-saving vaccines are delivered to patients. According to the UK Health Security Agency, the proportion of people with chronic lung disease receiving a flu vaccine was 56% in England in 2021/2022. We know flu vaccinations in people with chronic lung disease can significantly reduce hospital admissions and mortality. This Sub-Group will look to boost vaccine awareness among this clinically vulnerable group to increase uptake and help keep people with lung conditions out of hospital over winter.   

Approximately, 30,000 infants and 18,000 adults are hospitalised with RSV annually, with patients with pre-existing lung conditions at the greatest risk of severe illness. In June 2023, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended the Government introduce new vaccinations for babies and older adults against RSV. These recommendations were reissued in September 2023, as the Government failed to act. A priority of this Sub-Group will be engaging with the Government and NHS England to ensure that RSV vaccines are delivered to patients by winter 2024.  

In the Specialised Medicines meeting, members discussed increasing patient access to innovative lung medicines. This new sub-group will focus on increasing the uptake of biologics for people with severe asthma, with an eye on biologics for COPD in the future. At least six different biologics are being studied in Phase trials in COPD clinical programmes, with studies reporting biologics reducing the number of COPD exacerbations.  

We know that biologics can dramatically reduce asthma symptoms and reduce exacerbations. Research conducted by Asthma and Lung UK revealed that 43% of those referred to biologics experienced reduced hospital admissions and 45% reported being able to reduce their oral steroid use or stop it completely.  

Despite their effectiveness, a recent report into the use of biologic drugs across Europe found that England lags significantly behind other countries, with only one in five patients with severe asthma receiving such a treatment. Previously, the Taskforce played a key role in developing the Accelerated Access Pathway, which provides a set of standards for the care of adults with uncontrolled and severe asthma. This pathway positively impacts the uptake of biologics and has proven effective at identifying eligible patients.  

Going forward, the Specialised Medicines Sub-Group will focus on overcoming the barriers to ensure that all patients can access these transformative medicines. Please do contact the Taskforce here, if you have any questions about these new Sub-Groups or if you would like to get involved.