I sympathise profoundly with anyone who suffers with respiratory illness. 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.
The British Lung Foundation’s Battle for Breath report found wide variation in treatment and care across the country and raises serious concerns about the long-term neglect, under-prioritisation and underinvestment in research, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease.
I understand the disappointment that will be felt by many in our constituency and across the country that the Government has no plans to establish an independent taskforce on lung health. 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 agree that investment in public health and prevention is crucial to tackling lung disease and I have long supported the establishment of a new tobacco control plan. After 18 months of delays, the Government published its updated strategy in July. While the plan sets out an approach to creating a smoke-free society, I remain concerned that cuts to public health funding have meant that it has proven far more difficult for local authorities to provide the much-needed specialist support.
Cuts to public health grants are a false economy when it comes to seriously driving forward the agenda on public health, especially in relation to smoking. The new tobacco control plan can only be effective if the right level of funding is found to implement it and by ending cuts to public health budgets.
In addition, I am aware that the rise in respiratory admissions is, in part, due to the high level of vehicle emissions in the environment. I believe that the Government needs to tackle this situation and present a credible policy to improve the air quality in our country.
At the General Election in June I stood on a manifesto which pledged to: invest in our NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need; take action to address ‘postcode lotteries’ to ensure that the quality of care an individual receives does not depend on which part of the country they live in; and ring-fence public health funding to ensure money reaches the frontline.
I have written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care to ask what the Government intends to proceed in supporting the new national plan and I will provide an update as soon as I have received a response.