Respiratory disease

Our ambition for respiratory disease

The NHS Long Term Plan set outs the ambitions for the NHS over the next 10 years, identifying respiratory disease as a clinical priority. It outlines out how we will be targeting investment to improve treatment and support for people with respiratory disease, with an ambition to transform our outcomes to equal, or better, our international counterparts.

About respiratory disease

  • Respiratory disease affects one in five people and is the third biggest cause of death in England (after cancer and cardiovascular disease). Lung cancer, pneumonia  and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the biggest causes of death.
  • Hospital admissions for lung disease have risen over the past seven years at three times the rate of all admissions generally.
  • Respiratory diseases are a major factor in winter pressures faced by the NHS; most respiratory admissions are non-elective and during the winter period these double in number.
  • The annual economic burden of asthma and COPD on the NHS in the UK is estimated as £3 billion and £1.9 billion respectively. In total, all lung conditions (including lung cancer) directly cost the NHS in the UK £11billion annually.
  • Incidence and mortality rates from respiratory disease are higher in disadvantaged groups and areas of social deprivation, with the gap widening and leading to worse health outcomes. The most deprived communities have a higher incidence of smoking rates, exposure to higher levels of air pollution, poor housing conditions and exposure to occupational hazards.

Our work on respiratory disease

A new programme has been set up to improve the treatment and support of people with respiratory disease and deliver the commitments outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan. We aim to:

  • Enable early and accurate diagnosis of respiratory diseases, by supporting the training of staff to deliver tests such as spirometry.
  • Expand pulmonary rehabilitation services across the country so that patients who would benefit complete treatment in  a good quality service.
  • Improve appropriate prescribing of medicines and the way they are reviewed, and support patients to use their inhalers properly
  • Design and develop tools and programmes that will support patients to manage their condition themselves and receive personalised care
  •  Improve the treatment and care of people who present with community-acquired pneumonia

How we are working with partners

Our national respiratory programme is developing a clear approach, in partnership with our partners, to improve outcomes for people with respiratory disease and meet the Long Term Plan ambitions.

We are working with the British Lung Foundation, British Thoracic Society, Asthma UK, Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS), NHS RightCare, Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) other arm’s length bodies (ALBs) and voluntary sector organisations to deliver a national programme of work.

We are also working with The Taskforce for Lung Health which aims to prevent more people from developing lung disease and to transform the care of people living with lung disease. The Taskforce is a collaboration of influential voices in UK lung health and it has created a five year plan which overlaps and supports some of the ambitions outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan.


If you would like any more information on the respiratory programme, please email