People in areas of the UK with the worst levels of deprivation were more likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency and to die from lung conditions than those from more affluent areas, research by a charity suggested.
Many of the areas where populations have poor lung health also have historically higher rates of smoking, according to the analysis by Asthma + Lung UK, which urged UK Governments to improve diagnosis and care services for lung conditions.
The charity, which has launched a campaign to end what it called a "lung health lottery", ranked rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths because of lung conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory infections like 'flu and pneumonia, for 216 local authorities throughout the UK.
Among findings from the analysis:
- Knowsley, Inverclyde, Salford, North Ayrshire, and Blackburn with Darwen ranked highest for rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths for lung conditions
- York, Bracknell Forest, Barnet, Kensington and Chelsea, and West Sussex had the lowest rates of emergency admissions and deaths for lung conditions
- High smoking rates in some areas contributed to high rates of emergency admissions and deaths, such as in Blackpool where, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, an estimated one fifth of the adult population smoke.
Overall, a north-south divide for lung health was seen in England, with the North West making up 6 out of 10 of the areas in the UK ranked highest for emergency admissions and deaths due to lung conditions.
Some of the areas with higher mortality and emergency admission rates also had higher levels of air pollution, including levels of PM 2.5. For instance, pollution rates in Blackpool, ranked 210 of 216 for emergency admissions and deaths, were four times higher than levels in the Shetland Islands, ranked 13th, which had one of the lowest emergency admission and death rates.
Asthma + Lung UK – an amalgamation of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation – previously found that people with a lung condition were more likely to die in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, with the exception of Turkey. It said UK Governments must do more to tackle "unacceptably high rates of air pollution and smoking".
Sarah Woolnough, the charity's chief executive, said: "To do better, UK Governments must address stark inequality in lung health and ensure the NHS has the resources to support its dedicated staff. People at risk of or living with lung conditions can't simply move to improve their lung health, it is health inequality we must battle."
Thérèse Coffey abandoned the Government's long-promised white paper on health inequalities last year during her stint as England's Health Secretary, and the current commitment is to produce a 'major conditions strategy' to address health disparities, with an interim report due in the summer.
According to Asthma + Lung UK, even people living in places that have lower mortality and emergency hospital admission rates for lung conditions faced avoidable risk factors, including high levels of air pollution, high smoking rates, and poor basic asthma and COPD care.