CAMPAIGNERS are calling for “urgent action” to address Scotland’s “shameful” record on lung health after figures found more than 7,000 people a year are dying from lung conditions.
Asthma + Lung UK Scotland – previously Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland – has launched a new Fighting For Breath strategy to highlight the issue.
They say a commitment on bolder clean air targets is needed from the Scottish Government.
The organisation’s analysis found more than 7,000 Scots die every year from lung conditions, with the UK home to one of the highest death rates in Europe for such conditions – only Turkey is worse.
The organisation – formerly known as Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland – called for more action as it launched the new Fighting for Breath strategy.
Joseph Carter, head of Asthma + Lung UK Scotland, said: “The state of lung health in Scotland is shameful with over 7,000 lives lost every year.
“For far too long lung conditions have been treated like the poor relation compared to other major illnesses like cancer and heart disease, with only 2 per cent of publicly funded research spent on understanding them and finding treatments, and negative attitudes preventing people getting early diagnoses, treatment and care. We need urgent action now.
“We need more NHS funding so people can be better diagnosed more quickly, enabling them to go on to receive the appropriate treatment and care they need.
“We also need a commitment from the Scottish Government to much bolder clean air targets and a commitment to fund its Respiratory Care Action Plan.”
He added: “We are campaigning for lung health to be treated as a national priority and fight for a Scotland where everyone can breathe clean air with healthy lungs.”
Lung disease is one of the top three killers in Scotland with one in five people diagnosed with a lung condition at some point in their lives in a country where, around 368,000 people are currently receiving treatment for asthma, including 296,000 adults and 71,000 children.
Meanwhile, more than 140,000 people have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and a further 200,000 sufferers are estimated to be undiagnosed.
Asthma + Lung UK Scotland wants to see these and other lung conditions being treated as seriously as other major illnesses including heart disease and cancer.
As well as demanding action to tackle air pollution, the organisation also stressed the importance of tackling health inequalities, noting that over a third of people (35%) in the most deprived areas are smokers, compared to 10% in the least deprived areas.
Asthma sufferer Toni Gibson, 48, of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, said: “I think there is a general lack of awareness around lung conditions and now more than ever, as we come out of Covid, people need to know there is support for them and where they can find it.
“In Scotland, we need those in charge to do more and to do better, especially around clean air.”
In response, a Scottish Government spokeswoman referenced Scotland’s Respiratory Care Action Plan founded to improve prevention, diagnosis, care, treatment and support.
She said: “The plan was developed in consultation with senior respiratory clinicians across Scotland and third sector organisations and has drawn on the experiences of people living with respiratory conditions, including asthma and COPD through the pandemic.
“The plan will play a key role in responding to the direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic on respiratory services.”
She also said the Scottish Government has committed to reducing motor vehicle kilometres by 20% by 2030, adding: “We’re providing free bus travel for under 22s, over £500 million for bus priority infrastructure and investing at least £320 million in active travel by 2024-25.
“In addition, Scotland’s Low Emission Zones will provide real benefits for thousands of people in Scotland’s cities – they will reduce harmful emissions significantly and help to deliver air quality objectives.”
Asthma-sufferer Stephen Fry has penned a letter encouraging people to look after their lung health in support of the campaign.
The actor and broadcaster, 64, said: “As of this week, Asthma + Lung UK is the new name for the joining together of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation, two established charities that your readers will hopefully be aware of.
“Asthma + Lung UK will continue to fund research into life-changing treatments for everyone with a lung condition, campaign for cleaner air to breathe and for people with lung conditions to get the care they need.
“They will continue to be there with incredible advice and support through their helpline and website.”
Fry added that the pandemic has shown us “how devastating lung conditions can be”.
He said: “Around 12 million people will be diagnosed with a lung condition in their lifetime – so that is one in five of us who will need their support. Now is the time to look after our lungs and it is reassuring to have the expertise and support from Asthma + Lung UK to call upon.”