More has changed in a year than we have ever seen before

Alison Cook, chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health, explains the progress made in the last year.

Alison Cook giving a speech to parliament

It’s really difficult to know exactly when changes in the way the NHS is thinking and working are due to the influence of Taskforce members, but it’s easy to say that things have changed more in the year since the Taskforce report was published than we have ever seen before. 

Lung disease is now a priority

Lung disease is now a clinical priority. With that comes investment and real thinking about how we make diagnosis and treatment better for everyone. That includes parts of the country where diagnosis rates are low and access to the right treatment just doesn’t happen for enough people.

The individual voices of our Taskforce members, made up of patients, clinicians, charities and industry, have been heard loud and clear and the evidence that the Taskforce has presented has really moved those people who have the power to make change. It’s not just the NHS that is changing, we are seeing how air quality is being taken more seriously as a threat to lung health and the beginnings of an understanding about the dangers to lungs in the modern-day workplace.

We decided this year to concentrate on those recommendations where we felt we could make fast progress. Our One Year On report sets out the work of each of our three working groups: diagnosis, medicines optimisation and pulmonary rehabilitation.

We need faster transformation

Yet we must not lose sight that the Taskforce’s ambitions go far beyond those of the NHS Long Term Plan. We have made 43 recommendations for improvement and in 2020 we need to push government and policymakers to deliver more and faster transformation.

More than 114,000 people die each year from lung disease and 1 in 5 people in the UK have a respiratory illness. We still don’t have a national registry for lung disease and we lag far behind other disease areas in understanding how many people have poor respiratory health and how many are getting the treatment they need at the right time.

The voices of people should be heard loud and clear

Nothing makes the case for change better than the people affected by lung disease who share their experience with the Taskforce.

Lauren, who has been admitted to hospital twice this year because her asthma has got worse. She feels there have been a number of missed opportunities over the past 10 years when she could have been better supported to stay well.

John, who questions why drugs for IPF are not available for those with lung function that is ‘too good’. Despite having a progressive disease, they must wait for their health to deteriorate before they are eligible.

Jay, who contributed to the development of the Taskforce’s Five Year Plan, and who championed the need for increased public awareness and understanding of COPD.

There are thousands of people who stand behind the Taskforce with their stories to tell.

The voices of people should be heard loud and clear by policymakers when they design changes to services. We must deliver the improvements they tell us will make a difference: earlier and more accurate diagnosis, more effective use of medicines and greater access to pulmonary rehabilitation.

A key priority for the Taskforce is to demonstrate to people with lung disease how we are working to impact day-to-day lives. The newly-launched Taskforce data tracker is an important step forward in visualising progress, as well as highlighting where improvements are not yet happening quickly enough.

Thank you to everyone who has given their time to the Taskforce this year and thank you to the companies that continue to support us. We are being heard and we will deliver real and lasting changes. I look forward to reporting back on our work again next year.

Learn about what's changed in the last year.

Read the One Year On report

Explore lung health data in your area

24 January 2020