Why 2020 is a year of opportunity for lung health

Professor Andrew Menzies-Gow, NHS England's national clinical director for respiratory, explains why there's cause for optimism for people with lung disease.

Andrew Menzies-Gow at the Taskforce for Lung Health One Year On report launch

Professor Andrew Menzies-Gow at the Taskforce for Lung Health's One Year On report event in Parliament

As we move into a new decade, I feel there is cause for optimism for people with lung disease. The inclusion of respiratory health in the NHS Long Term Plan means we now have the formal recognition and priorities to drive significant progress in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of people with lung disease.

Too many people with lung disease are misdiagnosed

We want to match, and even exceed, the best standards available elsewhere in Europe.

For too long, too many people with lung disease have been undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. There are strong links between lung disease and deprivation, and often those most likely to be affected live in our poorest communities.

These missed opportunities for a timely and accurate diagnosis must be addressed if we are to improve access to effective treatment and give people advice and support to make the changes they need to live well for longer.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a key commitment

We're currently working on how to support and encourage best practice across the system when patients present with breathlessness and other symptoms.

The expansion of pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) services is another key commitment in the Long Term Plan to improve the everyday lives of people with lung disease. The ambition is that rates of referral will increase from 13% to 60% by 2023/24.

GPs are being given incentives to support this. Targeted funding is being made available by NHS England and NHS Improvement to support the expansion of services, increase referrals and encourage the spread of good practice.

The Long Term Plan also requires there to be more support for patients to receive and benefit from the right medication, including working with pharmacists to help patients use their inhalers correctly, thereby helping people with lung disease to enjoy the best possible quality of life.

It's important to work collaboratively

Last week, the Taskforce for Lung Health published it’s One Year On report, updating on the progress made since the release of the Taskforce Plan just over a year ago.

The Taskforce worked with NHS England to inform the Long Term Plan which shortly followed, and confirmed respiratory disease as an NHS clinical priority.

The One Year On report provides a useful update on the progress of our plans for improving the lung health of the nation. It also demonstrates the importance and value in working collaboratively to advance, develop and deliver real improvement.

A spirit of togetherness

Alongside the report, the Taskforce published the new lung health data tracker – bringing data about lung health across the country into one place. The tracker makes information about lung health available to everyone and enables people to explore the numbers in their local areas.

I have been moved by the spirit of togetherness in the respiratory community of clinicians, policy makers, academics, charities and, most importantly, patients. Working together, we are all helping to drive some of the most important developments in the care of people with lung disease.

As National Clinical Director I look forward to close collaboration to secure greater and faster improvements in services.

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31 January 2020