People in places such as Liverpool, Blackpool and Manchester are more likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency and die from their lung condition than elsewhere in England, according to new analysis from Asthma + Lung UK which has shown a stark north/south divide in the nation’s lung health.1
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 151 local authorities throughout England.
Asthma + Lung UK’s analysis found that all
of the top 10 regions with the highest rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths for lung conditions in England are in the North of England, and 80% (8 out of 10) are in the North-West of England.
Knowsley topped the rankings as having the highest rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths for lung conditions in the whole of England.
Salford, Blackburn with Darwen, Liverpool, Blackpool and Manchester also make the top 10 for the highest rates while York, Bracknell Forest, Barnet, Kensington and Chelsea, and West Sussex had the lowest rates of emergency admissions and deaths for lung conditions.
This analysis suggests that in England there is a north/south divide when it comes to poor lung health.
Asthma + Lung UK says that despite the tireless work of NHS doctors and nurses, levels of basic 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.2
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. Some of the areas facing high death and emergency admission rates also have increased levels of air pollution, and high smoking rates in some areas also play a part in the high rates of emergency admissions and deaths seen, for example, in Blackpool, where an estimated fifth of the adult population smoke.3
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.
The government recently announced it would be scrapping its health inequalities white paper. However, with the analysis showing areas with high rates of deprivation like Blackpool having death rates from lung conditions over two times higher than more affluent areas such as the London Borough of Richmond, and Rutland in the East Midlands, Asthma + Lung UK says health inequalities must be urgently addressed.
Asthma + Lung UK, who 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-wide4 including in Liverpool and Greater Manchester, and a new support group in Blackpool, is now urging Government to prioritise lung conditions in its upcoming Major Conditions Strategy.
This should include ensuring everyone with a lung condition gets diagnosed early so they are better able to manage their condition and are more likely to get treatment before it worsens, which would help reduce emergency hospital admissions. The charity is also concerned that vital diagnostic testing for lung conditions was suspended during the pandemic and in many areas is not fully back up and running again.
In addition, across the UK, a historic lack of investment into lung research and innovation has also contributed to poor lung health. 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 Government to increase funding for research and innovation into lung conditions that could save and transform millions of lives.
Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive at Asthma + Lung UK, said:
“It’s appalling that people across the North West are struggling to breathe, are being rushed to hospital in an emergency and that so many are dying avoidably from their lung conditions. We know that people in more deprived areas are more likely to have worse lung health, often with no choice but to live in poorer quality housing, more polluted areas with higher smoking rates. We need to tackle the lung health lottery head on.
“To do better, UK governments must address stark inequality in lung health and ensure the NHS has the resources to support its dedicated staff. People at risk of or living with lung conditions can’t simply move to improve their lung health – it is health inequality we must battle. Governments must ensure people living with a lung condition get an early diagnosis, have help quitting smoking, can breathe good quality air and receive the right support and treatment to manage their lung condition well. We’re here to help everyone with a lung condition, wherever they are, and we want to urge everyone in the North West to take lung conditions seriously by joining our End the Lung Health Lottery campaign.”
Jo Pond, 40, from south Manchester, has been stuck in a vicious cycle of life-threatening asthma attacks and steroid tablet treatment for her severe asthma, which has landed her in hospital countless times since she was diagnosed with asthma aged 20 when she was at university.
The primary school teacher was able to control her asthma for more than a decade, but after becoming pregnant with her first daughter her breathing rapidly deteriorated
and she was diagnosed with severe asthma, the most serious type, eight years ago. The mum-of-two lives close by to the M56, and on busy days finds that the air pollution caused by road traffic emissions can worsen her asthma symptoms, which include a persistent cough and tight chest.
Jo, whose asthma is also triggered by changes in weather and air fresheners, has had asthma attacks so severe that she’s been rushed to hospital by ambulance:
“Fighting for breath is a terrifying experience. I am always reluctant to go to hospital as I prefer to manage my condition at home, where I live with my husband and my
two children, aged 9 and 3. But there are times my husband has been so worried about my health that he’s been forced to call an ambulance. I’ve spent weeks in hospital, away from my children, which can be hard to take.”
Jo wants to raise awareness of the realities of life with severe asthma and how serious and terrifying the condition can be.
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 our Helpline team a call on 0300 222 5800 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) and visit our website, which has vital health information on topics such as managing your COPD and health advice about asthma.