A new report on the incidence of lung disease in the UK makes dismal reading
Respiratory disease now kills more people in the UK than coronary heart
disease or non-respiratory cancer, according to a report published by the
British Thoracic Society.
The study, The Burden of Lung Disease, by the Department of Public Health at
the University of Oxford, reports that respiratory disease now kills more than
one in four people in the UK.
The number of UK women dying from lung conditions has shown a marked
increase in the last two decades (from 1984 to 1998), rising by 28 per cent.
Respiratory disease is now the most commonly reported long-term illness in
UK women aged between 16 and 44, with asthma more common than any other
long-term condition, including back pain.
Lung disease is the most common illness responsible for an emergency
admission to hospital, says the report, costing the NHS £2.58bn – it is now the
most common reason to visit a GP.
Asthma levels have leapt by 114 per cent in males and 165 per cent in
females in the period covered by the report, while cases of respiratory
tuberculosis have rise by more than a 22 per cent during the 1990s alone.
Cases of occupational lung disease (especially mesothelioma caused by
asbestos fibres) have also shown a rapid increase, with more than 66,000 people
dying of pneumonia in 1999.
Professor Duncan Geddes, president of the British Thoracic Society, says
Health Secretary Alan Milburn needs to hold an urgent "lung summit"
to discuss ways of helping to prevent and treat lung diseases more effectively.
"The lack of a national programme of treatment and care for respiratory
disease, together with a severe shortage of chest specialists, nurses and
physiotherapists, is causing patients with a lung disease to suffer
unnecessarily," he says.