Experts are calling for a national review and action plan to tackle lung disease to help ease annual winter pressures on the NHS.
A British Thoracic Society (BTS) data review found that the number of A&E attendances in England for lung disease has nearly doubled in the last seven years, and stated that the upcoming NHS long-term plan could have some key clinical policies to help tackle the problem.
A broad four-point plan has been proposed to help curb respiratory disease pressures on the NHS in winter, which includes strengthening prevention to cut the number of respiratory infections and flare-ups; boosting the respiratory specialist headcount in the NHS; disseminating best practice more widely across the NHS to treat patients closer to home; and investing in targeted respiratory disease research.
Lung diseases - including pneumonia, flu, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma - accounted for nearly a million visits between April 2017 and March 2018 alone, with a near doubling in hospital admissions for respiratory illness during the winter months.
“Nearly every winter the NHS struggles to cope with a surge of people with lung disease being admitted to hospital through A&E. This surge is to some extent predictable as cold weather can weaken the immune system and make us more prone to viruses that circulate,” said Dr Jonathan Bennett, incoming chair of the BTS Board and consultant lung specialist.
“Short-term NHS funding injections are welcome. However, we really need a more proactive, long term and co-ordinated plan that works across all parts of the NHS to prevent serious lung illness happening in the first place.”