Charity calls for more specialist nurse support for lung disease patients

British Lung Foundation report highlights the 'systemic neglect' of lung disease  

Patients with lung disease must have a nurse specialist to support them, the British Lung Foundation says.

The charity is calling for an end to what it says is the systemic neglect of lung disease by public health bodies.

New data has revealed that every five minutes one person dies of lung disease and five others are diagnosed with it. 

In The Battle for Breath: the Impact of Lung Disease in the UK report, published today, the British Lung Foundation shows lung disease is one of the UK's three biggest killers. Yet efforts to tackle it lag behind those to curtail cardiovascular disease and non-lung cancers, the charity says.

The report gives the most comprehensive overview of lung disease in a decade revealing that:

One in five people have had lung disease.

Three of the UK’s top six diseases that cause mortality are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and lung cancer.

Only three European countries – Denmark, Romania and Hungary – have higher mortality rates due to lung disease than the UK.

Lung disease results in more than 700,000 hospital admissions and six million hospital bed days per year and only cardiovascular disease accounts for more.

Report recommendations include improving prevention and screening and creating an NHS clinical network for lung disease to integrate services and reduce regional variations.

British Lung Foundation nurse Katy Beckford says it is important patients have a clinical nurse specialist. She says: 'Chronic lung conditions dominate the daily routine of those people who live with them. Specialist care means that patients can be confident they are getting the right care and support to understand and manage their illness better.

'This is particularly important for conditions such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) that require multidisciplinary care and a range of providers, which can be quite difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, many people with IPF  lack the support of a nurse specialist, and many report feeling lost in the system as a result.'

The RCN welcomed the report. Professional lead for long term conditions Amanda Cheesley said: 'Specialist nurses can make a huge difference to people with respiratory problems, helping people to live lives as fully as possible while remaining well and out of hospital. But they have often been seen as a target for cutbacks, which is a completely false economy as people can end up sicker and in need of more hospital admissions.

'It has also been decades now since the effects of air pollution and tobacco smoking were understood, as well as the double effects of deprivation. More progress could and should have been made, and we need a concerted effort now to ensure that today’s children don’t suffer the same preventable conditions of previous generations.

'A focus on preventing these conditions, along with investment in specialist care to keep people as well and independent as possible, is now urgent.'

Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists vice chair Wendy Preson said: 'It is important that respiratory patients have access to expert help such as that provided by respiratory specialist nurses in a timely and equitable manner.'

Further information:

British Lung Foundation website