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The cost of lung disease

Lung disease affects millions of people in the UK every year, but it doesn’t just cost individuals and the families in terms of loss of health and quality of life.
Respiratory health, which lags behind other health issues in terms of research, funding and patient outcomes, is also taking a huge financial toll on our health service, businesses, and society that cannot continue to be ignored.

In fact, lung disease costs the UK a staggering £11 billion each year, according to our report, Estimating the Economic Burden of Respiratory Illness in the UK, which breaks down the cost of respiratory health to the NHS and society by lung condition.

Lung disease in the UK costs a staggering £11 billion each year.

Around £9.9 billion is falling directly on the NHS and £1.2 billion is lost to the wider economy through days off work.

The figures in the economic analysis make clear: the long term neglect and under-prioritisation of lung disease in the UK is costing lives. Despite billions of pounds being spent, respiratory healthcare remains hit and miss across the country. Clearly, we are spending a lot of money, but not very well.
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 in Europe.

This is why we are calling for an independent taskforce in both countries for respiratory health to urgently address the huge gap in healthcare services for lung disease. Progress in tackling lung disease has stagnated in the last decade.

Progress in tackling lung disease has stagnated in the last decade,


Concerted efforts to tackle cancer and cardiovascular disease have transformed patient care in these areas. 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


Dr Penny Woods
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