The British Lung Foundation has warned that hospital accident & emergency departments could be put under strain by a surge in admissions linked to respiratory diseases during winter months.
The charity, which has led a sustained campaign calling for measures to improve air quality in the UK, has published a report today (11 December) ‘Out in the cold’ in which it calls for greater support for preventative measures to help people suffering from existing lung conditions during winter months.
According to the report, the greatest number of hospital admissions due to respiratory diseases come during the winter months, which see as many as 80% more admissions than in the warmer spring months of March, April and May.
Respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer have all been linked to air pollution, due to the strain that exposure to dirty air puts on the lungs.
British Lung Foundation has called for a ‘strategic approach’ to improving the care provided to sufferers of respiratory diseases, in order to deal with this seasonal increase in the number of people being treated with these conditions.
The Foundation has established a taskforce to produce a five-year strategy which it is hoped will “transform outcomes for respiratory disease”.
Writing in the introduction to the report, Penny Woods, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Over the last seven years lung disease admissions to hospital have risen at over three times the rate of all other conditions. Crucially, we need to recognise that these lung disease admissions are at the heart of our winter pressures.
“Our A&Es are under extreme pressure. There are actually more people going to A&E in the summer, but many go home after treatment for physical injuries without needing a bed. The picture changes in winter as proportionally more people who attend need to be admitted for treatment. It is this rise in admissions and the need to find hospital beds during winter that continuously pushes our A&Es into black alert. This wholly predictable seasonal rise is in people being admitted with lung disease.”