Hospitals may not be able to cope with predicted rise in lung disease

The NHS could soon be overwhelmed by growing numbers of patients suffering from lung disease, a study has warned.

The British Thoracic Society said that in the next decade, up to one million people currently undiagnosed with chronic lung diseases such as bronchitis will be likely to need treatment. And if a flu pandemic occurred, services could be stretched to breaking point, it added.

Professor Andrew Peacock, chairman of the society’s communications committee, said the UK and Ireland were already the “wheezy capitals” of western Europe. They have the highest death rates for respiratory diseases in the region, he said, and this situation is set to get worse.

As well as undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including emphysema, cases of occupational lung disease and cystic fibrosis were set to rise, said Peacock.

A separate study also predicted the UK’s ageing population would impose considerable extra work and financial pressures on the NHS.
The number of people over the age of 65 is set to rise by 53% between 2001 and 2031.

The study in the British Medical Journal said this is likely to lead to a rise in the number of people with chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.

It also predicted that by 2031, the number of cases of coronary heart disease would increase by 44%, heart failure by 54% and atrial fibrillation by 46% (BMJ Volume 331, p1,362).

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