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by Joseph Carter, head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland
22 March 2022
Associate Feature: Fighting for Scotland’s right to breathe

Associate Feature: Fighting for Scotland’s right to breathe

For too long, our nation’s lung health has been side-lined, under-treated and under-resourced. This is inexcusable when lung conditions are the third leading cause of death in Scotland and thousands are affected by breathlessness, which can be terrifying and limit people’s ability to get on with their daily lives.

Over the past decade, outcomes for people with lung conditions have not improved to anywhere near the same extent as in other disease areas, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. The burden from chronic lung conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis, interstitial lung disease, long covid and lung cancer, continues to grow.

There has been chronic underinvestment in lung health by governments and health services. The Respiratory Care Action Plan was only published last spring, five years after the Cancer Strategy was published. And our opportunities to develop new treatments and cures for lung conditions are hampered by a dismal lack of investment in research and innovation, with lung conditions receiving less than 2% of UK funding for medical research.

We’ve had cross-party support from MSPs on the Cross-Party Group on Lung Health and through our MSP Asthma + Lung UK Scotland lung health champions, but we need Scottish Government to act.

The reasons for the poor state of Scotland’s lung health and current limitations in prevention, diagnosis, care, and research are numerous and complex. But just because they are difficult to solve doesn’t mean change isn’t possible. What is needed is courage, tenacity and a willingness to think big to find the better ways of doing things.  

We’re here to take on the challenges. Since the start of 2020, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Scotland have been working together to improve the lives of people affected by lung conditions. Now we’re going forward as Asthma + Lung UK Scotland to drive a transformation in lung health. We’re the nation’s lung charity and we’re here for everyone who’s living with a lung condition, regardless of what that condition is.

This starts with shifting perceptions, so people realise that lung health affects us all. Infections like COVID-19, influenza and pneumonia can strike down anyone and leave them fighting for breath. This impacts every aspect of a person’s life, way beyond their health; it can affect relationships, work, finances and interests. Air pollution is all around us, causing the early deaths of 2,500 Scots every years and hospitalising thousands more. Our children are at risk of developing a lung condition from their very first breath.

Transforming lung health means exploring every opportunity in the quest for new treatments, radically improving diagnosis and care for people with lung conditions, and cleaning up the air we breathe so that the poorest in society aren’t paying the price.

But we cannot achieve this alone. We will work collaboratively and form broad coalitions that speak with a single, powerful voice. Together, we will work with communities who are most at risk of lung conditions and make their voices heard.

Over the next five years we will deliver significant and lasting change. We will be fighting to make sure:

  • No one develops a lung condition that could have been prevented.
  • No one is left struggling to breathe without a diagnosis or expert care.
  • There is no stone left unturned when it comes to finding a treatment, cure or a better way to diagnose and manage lung conditions.
  • No one who has difficulty breathing looks back and thinks that, with better care, they could have had a better life


We’re realistic about the challenges ahead but with talented health care professionals working hard across Scotland and the opportunity to use the Respiratory Care Action Plan to bring people together, we believe that this is the time to transform lung health.

This article is sponsored by Asthma + Lung UK.

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