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UK Lung Disease Deaths Higher Than Most of Europe

New lung disease report - results in


Lung diseases kill more people in the UK than in most other European countries, according to a study published today.

The report, commissioned by the British Thoracic Society, claims that only seven European countries have a respiratory disease death rate higher than the UK figure of 77.85 deaths per 100,000 people.

Five of them - Kyrgyzstan (128.04), Tajikistan (111.27), Kazakhstan (94.38), Moldova (79.78) and Uzbekistan (79.75) - are former Soviet Union states, with under-developed health systems. The other two are Ireland (106.23) and Malta (81.2).

The European average is 54.09.

The report, titled The Burden of Lung Disease and compiled by the Lung and Asthma Information Agency at St. Georges, University of London, claims that respiratory disease kills one in five people in the UK - an improvement from the one in four it killed in 1999.

It states that respiratory disease costs the NHS £6.6bn and still kills more people than ischaemic heart disease in UK.

It also states that more women than men die of lung diseases, which include tuberculosis, pneumonia, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, occupational lung disease, sleep apnoea and scarring lung diseases.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • More than 27,000 people died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - an umbrella term covering chronic bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis - in 2004, and cases of COPD took up more than one million bed days in England
  • Occupational lung diseases such as mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, are increasing.
  • Mesothelioma deaths have increased by 70% to 1,862 since 1992The most commonly reported long-term illnesses in children and babies are conditions of the respiratory system.
  • About a fifth of children and 15% of adults are diagnosed asthmatics
  • 44% of all lung disease deaths are associated with social class inequalities, compared to 28% of deaths from ischaemic heart disease.
  • Men aged 20-64 employed in unskilled manual occupations are 14 times more likely to die from COPD and nine times more likely to die from tuberculosis than men employed in professional roles.

UK making progress with lung disease

Professor John Macfarlane, Chairman of the British Thoracic Society, said the UK had made progress in tackling lung disease and welcomed the government's announcement today to produce a National Service Framework to cover COPD.

He said: "There is good news and bad news to report on the state of the nations lungs.

"On the plus side we have made some progress in reducing deaths from lung disease. However, we still have a long way to go.

"Historically there has been no overarching national strategy to tackle the myriad of different respiratory diseases.

"However, we are pleased to see a change in the government's approach to the area and applaud recent national policy developments and discussions ranging from the ban on smoking in public places to the National Service Framework to cover COPD.

"It is vital that we all work together to push forward a co-ordinated strategy, backed by increased funding, to improve NHS services for people with lung disease."

Tackling COPD and lung disease

The plans for a new National Framework Service to tackle COPD will be announced today by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

She said: "The development of a new NSF is an important step which will support the NHS in managing and delivering COPD services more effectively, in a way that supports patient choice.

"It will support improvements in standards, tackle the current inequalities in COPD care and ensure that patients are able to access the services they need, where and when they want them."

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "This is a huge step forward for the millions of people with COPD in England.

"Our hope is that everyone with COPD will benefit from the disease being made a priority for the NHS and from the improvements in diagnosis, treatment and care that should follow.

"Better management of the disease will also address ways of reducing the significant burden of COPD on the NHS."

The Healthcare Commission will today publish a report claiming COPD sufferers have been neglected by the NHS.

Its Chief Executive, Anna Walker, said: "Services for people with COPD have been neglected. There is an urgent need to improve diagnosis and care for people suffering from the condition.

"Doing so will make a real difference to people's lives and there is evidence that it is more cost effective for the NHS.

"Patients need their condition to be properly diagnosed and their care and treatment reviewed regularly and systematically, not just when things go wrong."


Expert lung disease lawyer calls for further research

Occupational and asbestos related lung disease lawyer, Adrian Budgen of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, commented: "The death and illness rates from occupational lung disease ( for example, malignant mesothelioma and dust-related COPD ) are unacceptably high and this new report highlights the urgent need for medical research looking at treatment remedies and, wherever possible, prevention."


If you or a loved one has suffered from respiratory problems, such as occupational asthma or silicosis caused by conditions at work, our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.