The future of lung health in Scotland

Scotland punching above its weight when it comes to lung disease research, minister tells British Lung Foundation reception

Tuesday 21st May 2019

From developing a ‘lung-print’ to help clinicians tailor treatments for bronchiectasis sufferers to using digital technology to improvement care for people living with mesothelioma, the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) recent parliamentary reception demonstrated the appetite of many in Scotland’s research and care community to prevent, treat and cure lung disease.

Responsible for 700,000 hospital admissions across the UK every year already, the costs for treating lung disease are expected to grow as the population ages.

The costs of treating smoking-related lung disease alone are expected to exceed £200m by 2030 in Scotland.

Speaking at the event - which was sponsored and chaired by Labour’s health spokesperson, Monica Lennon MSP - Minister for Public Health, Joe FitzPatrick, assured attendees a respiratory action plan was in development – a move the BLF has been calling for in recent years to ensure research priorities translate into benefits for patients.  

We want services that address a person’s care needs and want to continue working alongside organisations like the BLF who work to make a real difference to the quality of life of those suffering from a lung disease”, the Minister said.

We are developing a respiratory care action plan which will identify the priority areas of respiratory care specific to Scotland and recommend actions in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management for respiratory conditions.

I’m delighted that the BLF and Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland are representing patients in the development of the plan, and that will ensure lived-experience is fully taken into account.”

Investment in lung disease research is a priority for the BLF. It has spent over £33 million in research since it was founded over 30 years ago and continues to invest in research which offers the prospect of improvements in diagnosis and treatment of chronic lung diseases.

Reflecting on ground-breaking lung disease studies being carried out in Scotland, Mr FitzPatrick said: “There is a real depth of expertise that we have here across a range of conditions…We really are punching above our weight.”


Among the speakers that followed was Dr Gourab Choudhury, consultant respiratory physician for NHS Lothian and clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

Part of a wider research team establishing the BLF’s early chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cohort, Dr Choudhury hopes to clarify what happens in the early stages of the disease and why some smokers go on to develop it.


The University of Dundee’s Professor James Chalmers also outlined research focused on bronchiectasis – a lung disease where the airways are abnormally widened, which causes the mucus that normally clears bacteria and other irritants out of the lung to stay within the lung.

The aim is to develop a way of producing a unique pattern of bacteria – a ‘lung-print’ – to help clinicians decide which treatment may be best for each patient.


Meanwhile, Professor Roma Maguire – part of a team at the University of Strathclyde interested in the care dimension of mesothelioma – charted progress in developing digital technology to enable mesothelioma sufferers to stay at home for as long as possible.

A particularly aggressive cancer which is difficult to treat, mesothelioma can often result in multiple admissions to hospital. Developing digital technology to give patients the ability to seek medical advice remotely and from their own homes is one of the research team’s main endeavours.

Involving patients throughout much of the research undertaken across Scotland is a common priority, particularly in the development of home monitoring systems for sufferers.

We look at how we can bring the patient, the person, to the centre of care deliveryThe person experiencing the disease really is the expert,” says Professor Maguire. “What they say is gold standard.”