Taskforce: Penny Woods' introduction

Lung disease is a blight on modern society and people living with lung disease in England get a raw deal. Compared to other countries we do badly in diagnosis and in treatment and could do better in preventing lung disease in the first place.

The Taskforce for Lung Health sets out in this plan key policy and practice changes which, if taken together, would create the step change in outcomes that we so desperately need for people living with lung disease.  

For the first time, the respiratory professional, patient and academic communities are working together as the Taskforce for Lung Health to look at how we can make improvements to death rates from lung disease, which have been static for the past decade. The collaboration of professional bodies, people with lung disease, royal colleges and respiratory charities to recommend changes across the whole patient pathway from prevention to end of life is truly momentous.  

We are already seeing the benefits of this united approach. Respiratory, along with cardiovascular, disease is for the first time an official priority in NHS England’s long-term plan. This recognition is long overdue, and extremely welcome. NHS England is planning to focus on preventing lung disease, early and accurate diagnosis, medicines optimisation and pulmonary rehabilitation.

But there is a lot more to do beyond these specific areas, if we are to see lasting and comprehensive improvement and a real difference to people living with lung disease. The Taskforce stands ready to work with the government and policy makers across the whole health and care system to achieve sustainable and meaningful improvements. 

Measuring this change from the perspective of people with lung disease will be crucial. People diagnosed with cancer already have this feedback mechanism in the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey. We now need an equivalent national survey to monitor progress from the perspective of people diagnosed with lung disease. Investment is also needed in public awareness-raising.

Generally, lung disease is poorly understood and people with lung conditions are subject to prejudice and stigma; this ignorance must end if we are to make true progress in how society regards lung disease, its causes and effects. Awareness-raising efforts are also crucial if we are to convince everyone to look after their lungs as best they can, and for everyone to know the warning signs to look out for, so we can diagnose and treat lung disease early.  

The Taskforce is committed to working tirelessly to bring to life the recommendations in the report. I am, now more than ever before, confident that we can start to deal a better hand to people living with lung disease