New report identifies the most cost effective NHS activities and programmes to improve lung health

The most cost-effective NHS activities to help reduce the burden of lung disease are identified in a new literature review – these include stop smoking support and patient education on asthma self-management.

And the leading UK lung organisations, who commissioned the study, believe funding and delivering these consistently across UK, would reap major health and economic benefits.

The report, conducted by York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) on behalf of the British Lung Foundation (BLF) & British Thoracic Society (BTS), identified published evidence on the economic costs of lung disease and the cost-effectiveness of different NHS activities, programmes and campaigns to combat lung problems.

The authors highlight that there is a ‘substantial evidence-base’ on the cost effectiveness of specific NHS activities and programmes for certain lung diseases 1 - these include:

  • Patient education and self-management in asthma
  • Stop smoking support for COPD
  • Vaccination programmes for pneumonia
  • Awareness campaigns for lung cancer

 The review also outlines real deficiencies in current UK data and evidence surrounding respiratory disease. These include: 

  • the absence of recent, or any, economic evaluations of the direct NHS/healthcare costs of many respiratory diseases – including major conditions such as lung cancer
  • ‘recent and robust evidence’ on the indirect costs (such as ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ social care, state benefits etc) for all lung conditions is lacking, except for asthma and cystic fibrosis

Other results include the following:  

  • The annual direct healthcare costs of asthma (2012) to UK were found to be nearly £1 billion (£964.9m), with spend on state benefits estimated to be £146.9m;
  • The annual direct healthcare costs in England of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were £1.5bn (2011) and £159m in Scotland;
  • The cost of cystic fibrosis (CF) ‘per patient’ in UK was €21,316 (2012) for direct healthcare costs and €21,716 for indirect costs;

Dr Lisa Davies, consultant respiratory physician atAintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Chair of the British Thoracic Society’s Board of Trustees said:

‘Lung disease is the nation’s third biggest killer and costs the NHS billions to treat. And as we head towards Winter, patients admitted with ‘flu, pneumonia and acute deteriorations of chronic lung disease will dominate our hospital wards.    

The good news is that we have a committed workforce, world-leading research and clinical guidelines, and some highly cost-effective NHS programmes which have been highlighted in this report.  But the historic lack of a national plan with sufficient investment has held uniform progress back.

One part of the solution is investment in some of the highly effective programmes outlined in this report. This would bring huge health and economic benefits for society and our health service.

We also need to work together to plug the major data gaps that currently exist across respiratory disease.  Good data informs better NHS services and policy – so fixing this is a major priority.”


Dr Penny Woods Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said:

“The study presents cumulative and compelling evidence that a national plan for lung disease will lead to huge savings. Both in terms of the cost of treating lung disease in the NHS, and crucially, a reduction in the cost of personal suffering to people living daily with life-limiting lung conditions.

The solution is national political leadership. This means a clear strategy to address the growing health and financial burden respiratory disease places on the NHS and society.”

From Thursday 19 October, copies of the report ‘Literature review: the economic costs of lung disease and the cost effectiveness of policy and service interventions’ can be downloaded at or




For more information / an embargoed copy of the report, or to arrange an interview, please contact the British Lung Foundation press office on tel: 020 7688 5580;

or contact BTS communications team, Rosie Strachan or Ed Gyde on tel: 020 7831 8778;  or


Note to Editors:


The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity fighting to help the 1 in 5 people in the UK affected by lung disease, by researching new treatments, campaigning for better awareness and services, and providing support and advice for patients, carers and family members. For further information, please visit For help and support, call the BLF Helpline on 03000 030 555.


The British Thoracic Society is the UK’s professional body of respiratory specialists. The Society seeks to improve standards of care for people who have respiratory diseases and to support and develop those who provide that care.  A registered charity, it has over 3,400 members including doctors, nurses, respiratory physiotherapists, scientists and other professionals with a respiratory interest.  For more information, go to


York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) is a health economics consulting company owned by the University of York.  It provides a range of services, including economic modelling, literature searching, systematic reviews, network meta-analyses, patient-reported outcomes, service review and applied research and training to the NHS and the pharmaceutical and health care industries.


1 The report pulls together key published studies highlighting the economic burden of major lung diseases to the UK economy – including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis (CF), respiratory tuberculosis, obstructive sleep apnoea and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). It also brings together existing studies probing the cost-effectiveness of NHS programmes and campaigns to prevent or combat lung disease including – awareness campaigns, screening programmes, supported patient self-management, vaccination programmes, pulmonary rehabilitation, integrated care and stop smoking support. This part of the analysis did not cover studies on drug treatment.