Lung disease is one of the three biggest killer disease areas in the UK, together with heart disease and non-respiratory cancers. Furthermore, the UK has the fourth highest mortality rate from lung disease in Europe.
Overall, the burden that lung disease places on our nation’s health and health services is immense – on a par with non-respiratory cancer and heart disease. Yet the amount of resources and attention invested in tackling lung disease trails behind these other disease areas. This is further evidenced by the fact that mortality figures for lung diseases are roughly the same now as they were 10 years ago, yet for heart disease this has fallen by 15% in this same period of time.
The British Lung Foundation funded a three-year epidemiological research project titled The Battle for Breath– the impact of lung disease in the UK. The aim of this was to elucidate the true extent of the burden of respiratory disease in the UK and hence be able to serve as a valuable resource for policymakers, researchers, health care providers as well as the general public.
Their findings pertaining to IPF and bronchiectasis are summarised below:
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is more than twice as common as National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) states in its official guidance. It is 50% more common in men and around 85% of diagnoses are made in people aged over 70. Around 32,500 people in the UK live with IPF and there are around 6,000 new cases diagnosed a year. Overall, 5,300 people die from IPF each year.
Around 210,000 people in the UK were living with bronchiectasis in 2012. This is at least four times higher than the estimate commonly used by the NHS. Other studies have suggested an even higher number and more research is required to confirm the true prevalence of the disease and to clarify whether bronchiectasis is becoming more common, or being diagnosed more accurately.
Around 35% more women than men are diagnosed with bronchiectasis each year. In 2012, bronchiectasis was over 20% more prevalent in the least deprived communities than in the most deprived. From 2008 to 2012, recorded deaths from bronchiectasis went up by 30%: from 1,150 to 1,500.
For more details, you can access the full report on https://www.blf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/the-battle-for-breath-2016 .
Written by Dr Aemun Salam, UCL Respiratory