Death rates from lung disease in the UK are about a third (32%) higher than a selection of other major EU nations,  as well as Australia, Canada and USA according to new research presented to the British Thoracic Society. 

The study, conducted by an international research team from Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge (USA), John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford, University College London & Imperial College London, compared UK death rates from lung disease between 1985-2013 with countries from EU15+1. This group of countries was chosen because they have similar or higher levels of national health expenditure to the UK.

The British Thoracic Society has used the data to renew its call on the Government to ‘show leadership and get serious about tackling lung disease’ including ‘the need to urgently scope and deliver a national strategy to diagnose lung disease much earlier.’  

Lung diseases range from lung cancer, pneumonia and TB to asthma, COPD and sleep apnoea.  Around 1 in 5 of UK population (12 million people) has received a diagnosis of lung disease in their lifetime and 550,000 are diagnosed every year. Lung disease kills 115,000 people every year in UK.    

Dr Lisa Davies, consultant respiratory physician at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Chair of the British Thoracic Society’s Board of Trustees said: "Lung disease is the UK’s third biggest killer and costs the NHS billions to treat. At an international level, we must do better in reducing our death rates to at least the levels seen in those countries performing well. 

"We know that some of these other countries have greater Government commitment and national plans to tackle lung disease. Sadly, in England especially, the historic lack of a national plan with sufficient investment has really held uniform progress back.

"To really drive things forward it is vital we have an overall NHS strategy to diagnose lung disease earlier when it is more treatable. 

"There have been similar effective initiatives for cancer. We need one for lung health. One simple activity within the strategy would be for the NHS Health Check, which reviews the health of 40-74 year olds for signs of heart disease and diabetes, to include a check on lung health.   This simple step could make a big difference.”   

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