Charity calls for urgent action to improve lung disease death rates

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Tuesday 15th March 2022

Asthma and Lung UK has called for urgent action to improve lung disease death rates after research revealed the number of people that die with lung conditions in the UK surpassed those of any country in Western Europe.

Asthma and Lung UK (ALUK), which launched on Monday 28th February having previously been known as Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, urged the government to allocate more funding to research and treatment to tackle the “shameful” situation. 

According to an analysis carried out by researchers at the charity, 500,000 people died from respiratory conditions, including pneumonia and asthma, over a seven-year period in the UK. The number of admissions for lung diseases has increased by 50% in the last 20 years in England and Wales. Admission rates rose from 1,535 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 3,143 per 100,000 people in 2019. The most common conditions were pneumonia, influenza and chronic lower respiratory disease. 

ALUK suggested that air pollution was likely to be a key factor in differences in rates of disease in Western Europe. Air pollution is now linked to around 36,000 premature deaths per year in the UK, with 7,000 occurring in Scotland. The study also found that disease was much more prevalent in deprived areas. People living in the poorest parts are up to seven times more likely to die of respiratory diseases than those in more affluent regions and cities. Exposure to pollution, smoke and poor housing and damp conditions could play a role in increasing risk. 

Analysis of death rates in Europe show that only Turkey has a higher rate of respiratory deaths than the UK. People living in Finland are three times less likely to die from lung conditions than UK residents. Rates were also significantly lower in Austria, France and Switzerland than in the UK. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that bringing rates of disease down and improving outcomes for those with lung conditions are priorities. Air pollution has decreased significantly since 2010 and the NHS laid out new targets for improving treatments in its 2019 long-term plan.