Fighting for Scotland’s right to breathe

- by Joseph Carter, Head of Devolved Nations at Asthma + Lung UK Scotland

For too long, our nation’s lung health has been side-lined, under-treated and under-resourced. This is inexcusabl­e when lung conditions are the third leading cause of death in Scotland and thousands are a ected by breathless­ness, which can be terrifying and limit people’s ability to get on with their daily lives.

Over the past decade, outcomes for people with lung conditions have not improved to anywhere near the same extent as in other disease areas, including cardiovasc­ular disease and cancer. The burden from chronic lung conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructiv­e pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiect­asis, interstiti­al lung disease, long covid and lung cancer, continues to grow.

There has been chronic underinves­tment in lung health by government­s and health services. The Respirator­y Care Action Plan was only published last spring, five years a€er the Cancer Strategy was published. And our opportunit­ies to develop new treatments and cures for lung conditions are hampered by a dismal lack of investment in research and innovation, with lung conditions receiving less than 2% of UK funding for medical research.

We’ve had cross-party support from MSPS on the Crossparty Group on Lung Health and through our MSP Asthma + Lung UK Scotland lung health champions, but we need ScoŽish Government to act.

The reasons for the poor state of Scotland’s lung health and current limitation­s in prevention, diagnosis, care, and research are numerous and complex. But just because they are di icult to solve doesn’t mean change isn’t possible. What is needed is courage, tenacity and a willingnes­s to think big to find the beŽer ways of doing things.

We’re here to take on the challenges. Since the start of 2020, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Scotland have been working together to improve the lives of people a ected by lung conditions. Now we’re going forward as Asthma + Lung UK Scotland to drive a transforma­tion in lung health. We’re the nation’s lung charity and we’re here for everyone who’s living with a lung condition, regardless of what that condition is.

This starts with shi€ing perception­s, so people realise that lung health a ects us all. Infections like COVID-19, influenza and pneumonia can strike down anyone and leave them fighting for breath. This impacts every aspect of a person’s life, way beyond their health; it can a ect relationsh­ips, work, finances and interests. Air pollution is all around us, causing the early deaths of 2,500 Scots every years and

hospitalis­ing thousands more. Our children are at risk of developing a lung condition from their very first breath.

Transformi­ng lung health means exploring every opportunit­y in the quest for new treatments, radically improving diagnosis and care for people with lung conditions, and cleaning up the air we breathe so that the poorest in society aren’t paying the price.

But we cannot achieve this alone. We will work collaborat­ively and form broad coalitions that speak with a single, powerful voice. Together, we will work with communitie­s who are most at risk of lung conditions and make their voices heard.

Over the next five years we will deliver significan­t and lasting change. We will be fighting to make sure:

• No one develops a lung condition that could have been prevented.

• No one is le€ struggling to breathe without a diagnosis or expert care.

• There is no stone le€ unturned when it comes to finding a treatment, cure or a beŽer way to diagnose and manage lung conditions.

• No one who has di iculty breathing looks back and thinks that, with beŽer care, they could have had a better life

We’re realistic about the challenges ahead but with talented health care profession­als working hard across Scotland and the opportunit­y to use the Respirator­y Care Action Plan to bring people together, we believe that this is the time to transform lung health.

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