Inverclyde has some of the highest emergency admission and death rates for lung conditions in Scotland, according to analysis by Asthma + Lung UK, as it urges UK governments to end the lung health lottery by investing in earlier diagnosis, improved care, and respiratory research and innovation
People in places such as Inverclyde are amongst the most likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency and die from their lung condition in Scotland, according to new analysis from leading lung charity Asthma + Lung UK.
The charity is urging UK governments to ensure everyone gets an early diagnosis for their lung condition, and once diagnosed, receives support and information. They are also pressing for UK governments to tackle unacceptably high rates of air pollution and smoking, which lead to lung conditions developing and worsening.
The charity, which has launched its End the Lung Health Lottery campaign, analysed and ranked the latest rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths from lung conditions including asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and respiratory infections like flu and pneumonia, for 216 local authorities throughout the UK.
The figures in Scotland can be seen in the figure below, provided by the charity.
Asthma + Lung UK says that despite the tireless work of NHS doctors and nurses across the whole of the UK, basic levels of care for people with lung conditions is patchy. The reasons for such high rates of emergency admissions and deaths in some areas is likely due to health inequalities.
Even people living in places that have lower death and emergency admission rates for lung conditions are still facing avoidable risk factors such as dangerously high levels of air pollution, high smoking rates and poor basic asthma and COPD care. Basic asthma care includes getting a written asthma action plan, being taught inhaler technique and having an annual asthma review. COPD care includes access to services to help quit smoking, referral to pulmonary rehabilitation, receiving flu and pneumonia vaccinations, having a co-created written self-management plan and optimising care for other conditions patients may also suffer from such as heart disease and cancer.
Many of the areas with poor lung health are areas where people experience higher levels of deprivation which can lead to problems like having no choice but to live in poor quality housing, where cold, damp and mould can all be triggers for asthma attacks or cause lung conditions to worsen.
They are also areas with historically higher smoking rates. These factors mean that, even if people were able to move to areas with lower emergency admissions and death rates, they wouldn’t necessarily experience better outcomes for their lung condition if underlying causes such as smoking, poor housing and exposure to air pollution aren’t addressed.
In addition, across the UK, an historic lack of investment into lung research and innovation has also contributed to poor lung health.
Asthma + Lung UK’s analysis found that Inverclyde, North Ayrshire topped the rankings as having the highest rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths for lung conditions in Scotland, while Shetland Islands has one of the lowest rates.
You can listen to Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma + Lung UK Scotland, talking about the charity and the challenges mentioned above, in my interview with him:
Asthma + Lung UK last year offered a listening ear to more than 17,000 people with asthma or another lung condition through its Helpline team, had 12 million views via its website and has 150 support groups UK-wide. They are now urging the UK Government to prioritise lung conditions in its upcoming Major Conditions Strategy.
Currently, in the UK, lung conditions are the third biggest killer yet they only receive 2% of public investment into research. The charity is therefore urging the UK Government to increase funding for research and innovation into lung conditions that could save and transform millions of lives.
Dad of three, Paul Wilson, 48, student nurse from Beith in North Ayrshire said:
“I was diagnosed with asthma at 2 years old. I used to have multiple asthma attacks – up to 2 a month until eleven years ago when I had my youngest son. I knew then that I had to seek proper help, take control and start asking the right questions about how to prevent my asthma attacks, rather than just deal with them once they happened. I know now, with better care, I could have avoided all these hospital admissions. Other than a brief visit to the hospital when I got Covid, I haven’t been admitted to hospital once in eleven years which is great.
“I now have a proper asthma plan and inhaler check. This is now done annually. I am also better at avoiding triggers – for example when I was a child, we used to have a cat, which wasn’t good for my asthma. I take all my vaccinations and am a lot more in touch with my GP practice. Because of my lived experience I wanted to become a nurse to help people with respiratory problems.
“Since Covid, I think there has been a lot more pressure on the health care system. It is harder to get appointments. In my area of North Ayrshire, there is a lot of social housing and with this, there’s sometimes problems with damp and mould. For example, I live in a council house, and we had damp for over two years because of an undiscovered leaking pipe. There was a delay in the Council looking at it because of Covid. I certainly felt that it affected my chest. Before then, I hadn’t realised that damp and mould could affect lung conditions. Air pollution can adversely affect the health of people in low-income communities, showing the importance of Low Emission Zones. I believe growing up in Glasgow, air pollution made my asthma worse.
“I think there needs to be more targeted education in schools as well as with parents about lung health. Asthma can be very serious, and people maybe aren’t aware of that. By the time they visit a health professional it can be too late. Confidence to ask informed questions from your GP or nurse is also very important. Problems in areas with high mental health problems and poverty can lead to higher smoking rates. To access help too, you often need to fill out forms which isn’t great if certain areas have lower than average literacy rates for example. In short, there’s no one reason why I think lung health in my community is worse than others”
Asthma + Lung UK wants to reassure the millions of people in the UK living with lung conditions that it can provide help and support wherever they live. If you are worried about any lung symptoms or your lung condition, you can give their Helpline team a call on 0300 222 5800 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) and visit their website, which has vital health information on topics such as managing your COPD and health advice about asthma. The charity also has more than 150 support groups up and down the country offering support and advice.
Asthma + Lung UK previously found that people with a lung condition are more likely to die in the UK than anywhere else in Europe.
This article is based on a press release from Ashtma + Lung UK
Find out more and get involved in our End the Lung Health Lottery campaign: https://www.asthmaandlung.org.uk/end-lung-health-lottery