A “radical overhaul” of UK respiratory research is needed to reduce morbidity and mortality from respiratory disease, as well as address the changing landscape of related healthcare delivery, according to experts in the field.
Professor Ian Hall, Division of Therapeutics, Queen’s Medical Centre, and colleagues including Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research & Innovation at Asthma + Lung UK, outlined eight key actions in a paper published in Thorax which they believe will be critical to the respiratory research community’s ability to deliver on the Office for Life Sciences’ (OLS) Life Sciences Vision, a central pillar of which is to reduce the number of people dying from respiratory disease.
The actions include prioritising the identification of undiagnosed respiratory disease – with the help of a new universal lung healthcare check for everyone aged 25, and subsequent follow-up checks every 5 years, to enable earlier treatment and thus improve outcomes.
A “monitoring observatory” should be established to investigate risk factors for respiratory disease and improve forecasting on changes in disease patterns, driven by fluctuating factors such as changing rates of obesity, pollution, vaping and also inequalities in access to care.
The group also recommended setting up a task force to boost access to effective respiratory disease therapies, with a particular focus on those groups considered ‘hard-to-reach’.
Other recommendations include “rationalising and extending” core datasets on disease incidence, prevalence and outcomes; the provision of regularly updated open access data to facilitate research; and new working groups to subphenotype and redefine respiratory diseases and thus pave the way for future therapeutic directions.
But it will also be critical to address any barriers that might be preventing trainees from pursuing a career in respiratory research, the authors said.
To that end, there should be “minimum targets for numbers of research trainees in the different professional groups to ensure critical mass is maintained and monitor trainee numbers accordingly,” as well as improved mentoring for all trainees interested in research at early stages in their training.
The authors also make the point that achieving the OLS objectives for respiratory research and care will need over-arching co-ordination, preferably from its current major funders, as well as “significant additional investment” via funding schemes such as those supported by UKRI and Innovate UK as well as from industry.
“The OLS Vision provides a challenge for the respiratory community with which we must engage. Both the health of our population and the future international standing of our respiratory research will depend largely on how we address this vision over the next few years,” the authors said.