GP surgeries’ air pollution deemed ‘unsafe’: 18 million NHS England patients attend doctors surgeries with dirty air

Jessica Taylor

Almost 18 million NHS patients in England are registered at GP surgeries in areas with filthy air, with Londoners at the greatest risk.

Air pollution data monitoring levels of particulate matter (PM2.5) outside GP practices in the UK show nearly one in three NHS patients are attending GP surgeries where the levels of pollution breach limits set by the World Health Organisation.

PM2.5 is a tiny air pollutant given off largely from car emissions and has been linked to asthma, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

In total, 75 per cent of patients in London (7.5 million people) were found to be registered at GP surgeries with toxic air, according to the study by UK100.

Patients in the West Midlands were also found to be better off than elsewhere in England, with 23 per cent attending surgeries that breach pollution limits.

Although London patients are shown to have the highest percentage of at-risk patients than those in other parts of England, the results show air pollution is a “national problem,” according to Polly Billington, director of UK100.

Billington added: “Causing up to 20,200 respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions every year, air pollution is a grave threat to the nation’s health.”

The London boroughs posing the greatest threat to patients were Lambeth and Newham, where 100 per cent were registered at NHS GP surgeries in polluted areas.

The results have prompted calls for action from central government on clean air.

Sadiq Khan said: “UK100’s findings are a timely reminder of how many people are exposed to poor air when they are at their most vulnerable.

“Government must recognise that cities can’t win this battle alone and we now need to be given greater powers and funding to clean up our filthy air and protect future generations.”

Elsewhere in England, concerns were raised about air quality by GP surgeries in Birmingham, Ipswich and Portsmouth.

Simon Stevens, chair of NHS England, said: "Air pollution causes thousands of hospital admissions and early deaths every year, but while doctors, nurses and therapists are treating the health consequences, the NHS is also taking action to tackle the problem at source.

“The NHS’ Long Term Plan sets out how better use of technology can help make up to 30 million outpatient appointments – and the millions of patient journeys to hospital they involve – unnecessary.”