John calls for more funding to tackle one of Rotherham and Barnsley’s biggest killers

AN MP is calling for more funding and better support for victims of chest disease, which is a top killer in South Yorkshire because of its strong mining and heavy industrial heritage.

John Healey has written to the Health Secretary after learning funding for Respiratory Programme Boards – specialist groups which work together to improve services and survival rates – will be stopped from March 2013.

In Rotherham one in seven deaths are from respiratory disease and the number of life years lost to asthma is 3.3 – which is twice the England average.

In Barnsley, chest disease is the third most common cause of death and the number of children with asthma being admitted to hospital in an emergency is significantly higher than the national average.

Mr Healey told Jeremy Hunt there had been improvements recently in South Yorkshire, but progress would falter without continued support.

He said in the letter: “One in five people across the country suffer from respiratory disease, with asthma alone affecting over 5 million people in the UK. This creates a huge drain on NHS resources.

“It is simply inexplicable and indefensible that respiratory disease is the only major therapy area to have been left out.

“Without specialist networks to drive clinical improvements, the progress on improving services and survival rates that we have made locally will falter, when we still remain far behind the European average.”

He also called on the Secretary of State to appoint a National Clinical Director for respiratory diseases to oversee implementation of the Department of Health’s COPD and Asthma Outcomes Strategy.

He added: “The decision to provide national leadership for respiratory conditions within the NHS Commissioning Board team could directly affect thousands of my constituents and could save thousands of lives.”

Notes to editors

Statistics on respiratory disease in Rotherham and Barnsley, from Asthma UK:

• The number of life years lost to asthma is 2.6 (the England average is 1.7)
• Emergency child admissions and deaths for asthma are significantly higher in Barnsley than those across the rest of England
• Respiratory disease is the third most common cause of death in Barnsley, accounting for 392 deaths a year between 2007 and 2009
• Respiratory disease makes a substantial contribution to Barnsley’s life expectancy gap; 17% in men and 25% in women
• Barnsley has a significantly higher mortality rate from pneumonia compared to Yorkshire and the Humber and England
• Spending per head for respiratory disease in Barnsley in 2009/10 was £100; higher than average spend regionally and nationally

In Rotherham
• The years of life lost due to asthma is double the average for the rest of England (3.3 years, compared to 1.7)
• Child deaths from asthma were double the national average midway through the last decade, though very good local programmes and work have now brought these down in line with other areas
• One in seven deaths are due to respiratory disease such as bronchitis, pneumonia and COPD