Dr Penny Woods
Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation
One in five of us in the UK has been diagnosed with a lung disease[i]. And millions across the country have the life-limiting lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – but don’t even know it[ii] .
The immense burden of lung disease on the NHS
The UK has the fourth highest mortality rate from lung disease in Europe.[iii]
Overall, the burden that lung disease places on our nation’s health and our 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.[iv] That’s why we’re calling on the government to set up a respiratory taskforce to develop a five-year strategy to improve lung health.
Making COPD diagnosis available earlier
We’re encouraging doctors to consider COPD as a diagnosis in everyone over 35 who has been, or is a smoker, and has respiratory symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to providing patients with better outcomes. Correct and timely advice to patients will help empower them to manage their conditions. For example, learning proper inhaler use, taking part in pulmonary rehabilitation and getting help to quit smoking for smokers.
For those with long-term respiratory conditions, being active and doing exercise can help improve breathing, fitness and quality of life. It helps in strengthening muscles and coping with breathlessness and in resisting infections, as well as boosting wellbeing and confidence.
It’s time to take lung health seriously
We encourage everyone to take their lung health seriously. This involves knowing what symptoms to look for, and understanding the importance of seeking expert medical advice where necessary.
The British Lung Foundation’s helpline provides advice on COPD and other lung conditions: 03000 030 555. Information is also available from: blf.org.uk/COPD
[i] The battle for breath – the impact of lung disease in the UK (2016), The British Lung Foundation, p3.
[ii] NHS England – Health and high quality care for all, now and for future generations. Section 6.2, Earlier and acute diagnosis of COPD: ‘An estimated 2 million people have undiagnosed and untreated COPD’. https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs/deliver-forward-view/sop/red-prem-mort/rd/
[iii] The battle for breath – the impact of lung disease in the UK (2016), The British Lung Foundation, p4.
[iv] The battle for breath – the impact of lung disease in the UK (2016), The British Lung Foundation, p3.