New figures show lung disease is costing the UK more than £11bn every year, prompting criticism the NHS and governments are not doing enough to tackle one of the country’s biggest killers.
A report by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) says, despite such a large healthcare bill for respiratory conditions, there has been little change in mortality rates over the last 10 years.
The Foundation says 115,000 people die from lung disease every year – one person every five minutes.
More than 12 million people are living with a lung condition in the UK.
It also claims the UK has the highest mortality rates for children with asthma in Europe.
According to the BLF, of the £11.1bn that lung disease costs every year, £9.9bn is spent by the NHS.
A further £1.2bn is lost in the wider economy through things like days off work.
There are calls for the governments and NHS in both England and Scotland to create special taskforces for lung health, and produce new five-year strategies for tackling lung disease.
Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, Medical Adviser for the British Lung Foundation, told Sky News air pollution is a major part of the problem.
He said: “In this country, the estimate from the Royal College of Physicians is that there are about 40,000 excess deaths per year caused by air pollution and one of the things in parallel with a respiratory task-force would be a new Clean Air Act.
“We need for the Government to be setting strong binding targets and actions to reduce this air quality problem.”
At the Hospice of St Francis in Hertfordshire, a group of patients with pulmonary fibrosis take part in a fortnightly exercise group.
Their condition will get worse. Some will take years to deteriorate and others will worsen more quickly.
One of the patients, Peter Bryce, runs the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust. He told Sky News groups like his offer vital support.
“Coming here is like joining a family. The people understand the nature of this illness and it’s easy to relate to them and share experiences and support each other. It’s brilliant,” he said.
The Hospice only receives 20% of its funding from the NHS – but it is this sort of support group campaigners want to see more of to help those with lung conditions.
The Department of Health insists it is doing more to tackle lung conditions.
A DoH spokesperson told Sky News: “It is plainly wrong to suggest that tackling lung disease is not a priority – government research funding has risen to over £25 million, our policies have helped reduce smoking rates to a record low and Public Health England has extended its successful ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms.”