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New economic study reveals the crippling cost of lung disease in the UK

Lung disease costs the UK a staggering £11 billion each year, according to a new economic report by the British Lung Foundation

Follow this link to access the full report: https://www.blf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/economic-burden

Estimating the Economic Burden of Respiratory Illness in the UK, published today, breaks down the cost of respiratory health to the NHS and society by lung condition.  

With £9.9 billion falling directly on the NHS and £1.2 billion on the wider economy through days off work - respiratory health is taking a huge financial toll on our health service, businesses, and society that cannot continue to be ignored. 

The figures in the economic analysis make clear: the long term neglect and under-prioritisation of lung disease in the UK is costing lives. Despite billions of pounds being spent, respiratory healthcare remains hit and miss across the country. Clearly, we are spending a lot of money, but not very well, warns the British Lung Foundation (BLF).  

The report outlines that while more than 12 million people are living with a lung condition in the UK, the NHS and Governments in England and Scotland have no strategy yet in place to improve services for patients. This is despite lung disease being the UK's third biggest killer and the UK having the fourth highest lung disease mortality rate in Europe.  

The charity is calling for an independent task force in both countries for respiratory health to urgently address the huge gap in healthcare services for lung disease. Progress in tackling lung disease has stagnated in the last decade.  

The charity highlights that concerted efforts to tackle cancer and cardiovascular disease have transformed patient care in these areas. There is now an urgent need for a credible strategy to improve respiratory outcomes too. 

The study analyses the burden of lung disease on the UK economy by measuring the value of work days lost due to illness, injury or premature death.  

The main findings and recommendations are: 

  • Respiratory disease costs the UK £11 billion a year, representing 0.6% of UK GDP
  • The most costly lung conditions areCOPD (£1.9 billion each year), asthma (£3 billion) and lung, trachea and bronchial cancers (£183 million)
  • Comparison with other disease areas: based on direct costs, lung disease ranks as the 4th most costly disease area to the UK, after mental health conditions, musculoskeletal diseases and heart disease
  • Respiratory health is a huge economic burden, costing the UK economy £1.2 billion a year; similar to mental health (£1.27 billion)
  • The governments and NHS in both England and Scotland need to establish a taskforce for lung health and produce new five year strategies for tackling lung disease 

The Charity warns that the UK has one of the highest emergency admission and death rates for childhood asthma in Europe. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the only major cause of death that is on the increase. 

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 

"We can no longer ignore a disease area which costs the UK £11 billion each year - it's a terrifying injustice. Our report makes the financial case for political action on respiratory health clear. The Governments and NHS in both England and Scotland must now act with urgency. The solution is an independent Taskforce for respiratory health to improve outcomes for patients and the nation's lung health." 

Dr Lisa Davies, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Chair of the British Thoracic Society's Board of Trustees, added: 

'Despite being the UK's third biggest killer, lung disease is still not a Government strategic priority. This cannot continue. We are now facing a critical phase where we urgently need national political leadership and an overarching strategy to address the growing health and economic burden respiratory disease places on the NHS and society."