Health charities have warned that the cost-of-living crisis is leading to patients cutting back on medicine, heating and food.
Half of the 3,600 people with lung conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchiectasis surveyed by the charity Asthma and Lung UK said their health had worsened since the crisis began.
A fifth of those polled reported “life-threatening” asthma attacks as they cut back on medicines, heating and food.
The charity warned there could be a “tidal wave” of hospital admissions as cold weather, an abundance of viruses and people cutting back on medicines, heating, food and electricity put them at increased risk.
It is calling for tailored financial support to help meet the increasing price of food and prescriptions, costing some people with asthma more than £400 a year.
The survey found that 90% of people with lung conditions have already made significant changes to cope with the rising cost of living, such as 63% buying and eating less food, 15% cutting back on their inhaler to make it last longer, 5% borrowing medicines from someone else and 6% not collecting their prescriptions.
Almost three quarters (74%) planned to heat their homes less while 45% said they expected to turn their heating off altogether.
Almost half (49%) said their lung condition was worse because of changes they had made, 20% reported an asthma attack or exacerbation and 19% have had to see their GP.
Asthma and Lung UK chief executive Sarah Woolnough said: “Untenable cost-of-living hikes are forcing people with lung conditions to make impossible choices about their health.
“Warm homes, regular medicine and a healthy diet are all important pillars to good lung condition management – but they all come at a cost. We are hearing from people already reporting a sharp decline in their lung health, including many having life-threatening asthma attacks.
“Lives are at risk if the Government doesn’t step in to help people with lung conditions, including ending unfair prescription charges and providing financial support for people who face extra energy bills for medical equipment.”
According to a survey by the MS Society, one in five people with multiple sclerosis in the UK (19.6%) do not have enough money to start medication or treatments they need.
And a third (33.9%) of people with MS have had to reduce or stop treatments or therapies – risking their symptoms worsening, the opt-in survey of 1,108 people with MS, carried out between April and May, suggests.
It also found 40% of respondents are having to borrow money to make ends meet.
The charity is launching an emergency campaign, calling for people on benefits to receive extra financial support from the Government to get them through winter.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “As energy bills go up on October 1, millions of people will find themselves in increasingly cold and damp homes, which will make pre-existing health conditions worse.
“The Government may have missed the chance to help people in the recent Budget, but there is still a small window of opportunity to get urgent financial help to people who need it the most.
“However, the reality now is that as more people suffer in fuel poverty, the NHS and social care system will face even more excess winter pressures, and plans need to be made to cope with this influx of patients.”
Macmillan Cancer Support also warned that patients were facing an “impossible choice” between getting to hospital appointments or buying food as it revealed record numbers were already turning to the charity for financial help this year.
New figures from Macmillan suggest an estimated two million people with cancer in the UK (66%) are already concerned about the cost of food or water over the next 12 months.
And the charity suggested cost pressures have led to at least 20,000 cancer patients (6%) delaying or cancelling travel to medical appointments.
Lynda Thomas, the charity’s chief executive, said: “This is an acutely challenging time for people with cancer. Not only are many struggling with the ongoing delays to cancer treatment and benefit payments, they are now burdened with the rising cost of living with concerns that this winter, the worst is yet to come.”