• Battle for Breath campaign

    I sympathise profoundly with anyone who suffers with respiratory illness and I share many of the concerns raised by the campaign. Lung disease is a major health issue and I believe it is important that we do all we can to make inroads into improving respiratory health.

    In its report published in March the British Lung Foundation highlights wide variation in treatment and care across the country. It estimates that lung disease costs the economy £11 billion every year and raises serious concerns about the long-term neglect, under-prioritisation and underinvestment in research, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease.

    This report is an important step in highlighting the staggering and rising cost of the illness. There is not only a financial toll for our society but for the NHS as well. I believe the Government need to come up with a credible and comprehensive strategy to minimise the prevalence of lung diseases in our country.

    I remain concerned that cuts to public health spending may widen the health inequality gap in our country – £200 million has already been cut from local public health budgets and 3.9% average real-terms cuts are expected each year to 2020-21. I believe the Government must be more proactive in raising awareness among the public and invest in preventative health measures which can head off the risks of lung disease in the years to come.

    The Department of Health has said it is keen to work with the NHS and the voluntary sector to find practical and innovative ways of improving outcomes for patients with respiratory disease, and that it will consider proposals for an independent respiratory taskforce as part of that process. I know that the Government continues to be questioned in Parliament on whether it will establish an independent taskforce on lung health. I can assure you I will continue to follow any developments with interest.