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Lung Disease

Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 14 November 2017

Me now, Mr Speaker. Improving care for people with lung disease is crucial to this Government. We do not need reams of new plans or strategies, but continued action to implement existing plans, including the NHS outcomes framework, which details NHS priority areas and includes reducing deaths from respiratory disease as a key indicator. Key initiatives include the implementation of quality standards on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and a national pilot to improve care of breathlessness.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but I think that more probably still needs to be done. Last month, I launched the British Lung Foundation’s latest report into idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Delayed access to diagnosis, support services and care is still commonplace for people with IPF and other lung conditions. Will the Minister agree to meet me and the British Lung Foundation, which is leading a taskforce for lung health, to establish what more can be done to address the issue?

I thank my hon. Friend, who speaks with great passion—I know that she has tragic personal experience. I will be meeting the British Lung Foundation shortly, and I am happy for my hon. Friend to join that discussion or part of it. As I said, one of the NHS’s priority areas, as set out in the outcomes framework, is reducing early deaths from respiratory diseases such as IPF. I understand that the number of cases has risen in recent years, which is rightly a cause for concern. She is right to raise the matter, and I look forward to meeting her.

I have long been a supporter of COPD groups in my constituency in Northern Ireland, but what help is the Minister offering to voluntary groups and families? In particular, what is he offering to the tens of thousands of young children diagnosed as asthmatic to help and assist with their condition?

Respiratory illness affects one in five people in the UK, and it is responsible for around 1 million hospital admissions annually, so it is very much in our interest, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup), to implement the outcomes framework. I look forward to having further discussions with the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell), and I am happy to meet him if he wishes.

Does the Minister, who cares deeply about these issues, share my concern that lung capacity often never recovers after being damaged in childhood? Is not that a powerful reason why we need to make significant progress on air quality issues?

Absolutely. I have just returned from a meeting of G7 Health Ministers, and one of the subjects under discussion was environmental factors in climate change and its impact on human health. We had challenging discussions on many areas, but air quality and its impact on respiratory disease was not one of them.

Under this Government we have seen lung disease admissions to A&E rise at double the rate of general admissions. That is even more concerning when the bulk of lung disease admissions happen over the winter months, when A&E departments are already under significant pressure. Will the Minister commit today to introducing a lung disease strategy to ensure that we can reverse these worrying trends and this pressure on people’s lives and on our NHS?

The meeting was in Milan, Mr Speaker, but we do not mention football in relation to Italy or Milan any more. I hear it is a touchy subject. [Interruption.] Very topical.

There is no plan for a new national strategy or taskforce, but we work closely with charities like the British Lung Foundation. We have to remain committed to implementing the NHS outcomes framework for 2016-17. As the Secretary of State said, we are better prepared for winter than we have been before, and the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) is right to raise that point.