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It's time to start talking about lung disease and the A&E winter crisis

We need to start talking about how lung disease affects our A&E departments over the winter. The full picture is revealed in our new report.

For many, winter is a magical time of year. But we know that for people with lung disease, it can be a source of worry and concern. Cold weather can bring flare-ups of conditions. Every winter, hospitals and GP surgeries see an influx of people with lung conditions.

We’ve been looking into how lung disease affects our A&E departments over the winter.

Our new report, Out in the cold, has found that over the last 7 years lung disease admissions to hospital have risen at over 3 times the rate of all other conditions.

Our A&Es are under extreme pressure. In winter, more people who go hospital need to be admitted for treatment.

That means there’s a bigger need to find hospital beds during winter and that pushes our A&Es into black alert. We can predict this need – it happens every year.

It’s now clear that lung disease admissions are at the heart of that pressure.

There are almost 80% more respiratory admissions in the winter months of December, January and February than in the warmer spring months of March, April and May.

Our report shows that the only other major cause of admission that has a peak during winter months is infectious disease, but the numbers affected are a fraction compared to lung disease.

We’ve known this for years, but have done little to adapt our hospital services to address it.

But it’s time to start talking about it. Lung disease shows no sign of going away. The number of people with COPD is set to increase in the next 15 years and asthma rates will remain stable.

We’re aware that many of the changes we’re suggesting can’t be made in time to help with this winter’s pressures. But now is the time to talk about the changes we need to make in the future.

We’re calling for a few things:

  • A better plan to help reduce infections and help people manage their lung conditions on their own.
  • Strengthened community care and support outside of hospital, so people know they don’t always need to go to A&E
  • Hospitals need to adapt their plans, bearing in mind that there will be more people unavoidably going into hospital with respiratory conditions in winter
  • Make sure that once people leave hospital are given the care they need, so they don’t end up going into hospital again in the future.

In the long term, we need a plan to improve care for the millions of people who have a lung condition in England. We have established a Taskforce for Lung Health to produce a 5-year strategy to start this plan.

This is the beginning of a much-needed conversation. Our report makes it obvious that hospital admissions from lung disease are at the heart of our A&E winter crisis. We need to recognise that, so people living with lung conditions get the care and treatment they deserve.

You can help. Tell your MP, MSP, AM or MLA that you want them to back our Taskforce for Lung Health today.

Email your MP today


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11 December 2017