International study finds UK has poor outcomes for respiratory conditions

A study published by the British Medical Journal has found that the UK has one of the poorest outcomes for patients with respiratory conditions.

The study looked at the population data for mortality for respiratory conditions across several countries including in Europe, Australia and the US, in what is collectively referred to as the EU15+ countries (countries that have comparatively similar health expenditure).

The team, which included researchers from the Trust, Imperial College London and Harvard Medical School, collected publicly available data on respiratory disease mortality for the EU15+ countries, from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mortality Database.

For the UK, the mortality rate for respiratory disease between 1985 and 2015 was overall higher when compared to the EU15+ countries. It also showed that although the overall mortality rate for men had fallen over those 30 years, for women it has remained the same.

The study looked at all respiratory conditions but found that, in particular, the mortality rates for obstructive (including asthma and COPD), interstitial (pulmonary fibrosis), and infectious (including pneumonia, influenza) respiratory disease was higher in the UK.

Although it’s not clear what exactly is behind the higher mortality rates, it is evident that more research needs to be done to establish the potential causes of these important differences between the UK and the EU15+ countries, in terms of population and other features which may contribute to the different overall mortality outcomes.

But it’s not all bad news: the NHS Long Term Plan includes more investment in lung health to detect and treat chronic and acute respiratory conditions earlier, and to focus on those who are disadvantaged and with social deprivation.

To better understand the implications of this work on patients’ knowledge and experience across health systems, the researchers presented their findings to patients with a variety of chronic lung conditions from some of the EU15+ countries. The patients provided their perspectives on chronic lung diseases, possible explanations for the results of the current investigation as well as areas of interest for future research work.

Professor Fan Chung, respiratory consultant at the Trust and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London, led the study and has already begun looking into what could be driving the differences seen in mortality.

He said: “These persistently high mortality rates in the UK compared to other EU countries regarding these respiratory diseases deserves further attention. Whether these figures reflect a failure of optimal delivery of care, or reduced access to care, needs to be looked at. The NHS Long Term Plan is addressing some of these issues but we should continue to strive for an improvement in these mortality rates.”

If you would like to find out more about any of our research mentioned in this article, or about any of our research in general, please contact us.