London hotspots for lung disease revealed with sharp divide between rich and poor boroughs

Charity says poorer areas in capital more exposed to pollution and effects of poor housing.

People living in Tower Hamlets are the most likely in London to be admitted to hospital and die with a lung condition, new figures show.

Analysis by Asthma + Lung found that residents of the borough had the highest rate of admission and death from lung conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), flu and pneumonia.

The figures lay bare the stark health inequalities between richer and poorer boroughs. Greenwich, Barking and Dagenham, Bexley and Newham all had the highest rates of disease while Barnet, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Richmond upon Thames had the lowest rates.

Asthma + Lung said the higher rates of hospitalisation and death in poorer areas were likely to be driven by poor quality housing, where cold, damp and mould can all be triggers for asthma attacks or cause lung conditions to worsen. Londoners living in poorer areas also face other risk factors such as high levels of air pollutions and high smoking rates.

Five of the top ten areas in Asthma + Lung UK’s ranking are also among the ten most polluted boroughs of London.

Of the top ten London boroughs that had the highest rates of emergency admissions and deaths for lung conditions, seven are also in the top ten in London for the highest indices for deprivation.

The charity’s analysis did not include specific deaths from lung cancer and admissions from lung cancer.

Around 3 per cent of all hospital admissions each year in England are due to respiratory conditions.

Of all 549,349 deaths in England in 2020/21, around 9 per cent were due to respiratory causes, of which most were down to pneumonia and COPD.

The highest rates of lung disease and admission nationally were found in Knowsley, Inverclyde, Salford, North Ayrshire and Blackburn with Darwen.

Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive at Asthma + Lung UK, told the Standard: “It’s appalling that people across London are struggling to breathe, are being rushed to hospital in an emergency and that so many are dying avoidably from their lung conditions.

“We know that people in more deprived areas are more likely to have worse lung health, often with no choice but to live in more polluted areas, with poorer quality housing and higher smoking rates. We need to tackle the lung health lottery head on.”

The figures were released as part of the charity’s End the Lung Health Lottery campaign to highlight what it says is the patchy care of people with lung conditions.

The top ten London areas with the highest level of hospital admission and death from lung disease were:

1. Tower Hamlets

2. Greenwich

3. Barking and Dagenham

4. Bexley

5. Newham

6. Southwark

7. Lewisham

8. Hackney

9. Islington

10. Ealing

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