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Lung disease costs the UK a staggering £11 billion each year, according to the latest report by Pro Bono Economics (PBE) for the British Lung Foundation

PBE report “Estimating the Economic Burden of Respiratory Illness in the UK” for the British Lung Foundation breaks down the cost of respiratory health to the NHS and to society

With £9.9 billion falling directly on the NHS and £1.2 billion on the wider economy through days off work, respiratory health is taking a huge financial toll on our health service, businesses and society.

A report into the costs of respiratory illness, conducted by Pro Bono Economics volunteers from the Department of Health and health economics consultancy firm Source HEOR, calculated the staggering cost to the economy of lung disease and other related illnesses by interrogating national datasets to look at direct and indirect costs. The study analyses the burden of lung disease on the UK economy by measuring the value of work days lost due to illness, injury or premature death. 

The report outlines that while more than 12 million people are living with a lung condition in the UK, the NHS and Governments in England and Scotland have no strategy yet in place to improve services for patients. This is despite lung disease being the UK’s third biggest killer, and the UK having the fourth highest lung disease mortality rate and highest emergency admission and death rates for childhood asthma in Europe.

Pro Bono Economics worked with charity British Lung Foundation to produce this report. The charity is calling for an independent taskforce in England and Scotland for respiratory health to urgently address the huge gap in healthcare services for lung disease. The charity claims that progress in tackling lung disease has stagnated in the last decade. Whilst strategies tackling cancer and cardiovascular disease have consistently improved, there is now an urgent need for a credible strategy to improve respiratory outcomes too.

The main findings and recommendations are:

  • Respiratory disease costs the UK £11 billion a year, representing 0.6% of UK GDP
  • The most costly lung conditions are: COPD (£1.9 billion each year), asthma (£3 billion) and lung, trachea and bronchial cancers (£183 million)
  • Comparison with other disease areas: based on direct costs, lung disease ranks as the 4th most costly disease area to the UK, after mental health conditions, musculoskeletal diseases and heart disease
  • Respiratory health is a huge economic burden, costing the UK economy £1.2 billion a year; similar to mental health (£1.27 billion)
  • The governments and NHS in both England and Scotland need to establish a taskforce for lung health and produce new five year strategies for tackling lung disease

British Lung Foundations warns that the UK has the highest emergency admission and death rates for childhood asthma in Europe. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the only major cause of death that is on the increase.

Julia Grant, Chief Executive of Pro Bono Economics, said:

“Our work, looking at the economic costs to society of some of the UK’s most common yet complex illnesses, is crucial for charities like the British Lung Foundation, especially if they are to make a case to Government and the NHS to urgently address the huge gap in healthcare services for lung disease. We are shocked to see such a large figure for the burden of respiratory illness to the UK, but hope that it will drive a very successful “Battle for Breath” campaign that calls for investing in cures and increasing early diagnoses.”

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said:

“We can no longer ignore a disease area which costs the UK £11 billion each year - it’s a terrifying injustice. Our report makes the financial case for political action on respiratory health clear. The Governments and NHS in both England and Scotland must now act with urgency. The solution is an independent Taskforce for respiratory health to improve outcomes for patients and the nation’s lung health.”

Dr Lisa Davies, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Chair of the British Thoracic Society’s Board of Trustees, added:

'Despite being the UK's third biggest killer, lung disease is still not a Government strategic priority. This cannot continue. We are now facing a critical phase where we urgently need national political leadership and an overarching strategy to address the growing health and economic burden respiratory disease places on the NHS and society.”

15th March 2017