One in five of us will be diagnosed with a lung condition, and currently more than five million people live with asthma, while one million have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, these conditions have not been given the same priority as diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke and death rates have not improved over the last decade.
Respiratory conditions are also a significant factor in the disparity in life expectancies between wealthier people and poorer people, with those in the 10% most deprived groups twice as likely to develop lung cancer or COPD. Covid-19 has amplified this inequality. Yet, there has never been a comprehensive national plan for lung health.
In a bid to address the issue, the British Lung Foundation set up the Taskforce for Lung Health, a 35-member alliance of patient representatives, healthcare professionals, charities and other professional associations. In 2018 it issued a call for evidence, then published a five-year plan with 43 recommendations covering prevention, improving diagnosis, and quality of treatment and care.
This acts as a clear vision that is supported by the broader community. It also means that there are consistent messages for policy makers about what is needed, which has delivered faster results than previous campaigns.
Patient voice is at the centre of the approach, with a commitment to the notion of “no discussion or decision without me”.
In 2019 working groups were set up to take forward the recommendations in different areas. Since then, respiratory health has been made a priority in the NHS England Long-Term Plan. This means there is now a dedicated national policy team and a number of the Taskforce’s recommendations have already been included in plans.
The next stage of the campaign will be a unified campaign to improve public understanding of lung disease. The initiative has cost £500,000 to date.
Charity Awards judge Ruth Davison commended the partnership’s focus on elevating patient voice and its explicit efforts to target the disproportionate impacts on poorer people. “It can’t have been easy to form this strategic alliance across so many different partners and sectors on an overlooked health issue,” she said. “It had really good outcomes, and it wasn’t expensive.”
CC Reg no. 326730