The Leading Peer-Reviewed Journal for the Primary Care Nursing Team
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May 2018

Deaths from asthma increase by 21% in 5 years

The UK has one of the worst asthma death rates in Europe, with the rate of people dying from an asthma attack increasing by more than 20% in 5 years, according to an analysis from Asthma UK, released to mark World Asthma Day.

Asthma UK’s analysis of the most recent Europe-wide figures from 2011 to 2015 found that:

  • The rate of asthma deaths in the UK has increased from 1.83 per 100,000 in 2011 to 2.21 in 2015. In 2015, 1,434 people died from an asthma attack
  • The UK’s average asthma death rate over 5 years is worse than countries such as Greece, Italy and the Netherlands, and it is almost 50% higher than the average death rate in the European Union
  • Of 33 countries in Europe, only Serbia, Turkey, Estonia, Spain and Cyprus, had worse asthma death rates than the UK from 2011 to 2015
  • Countries including Croatia, Bulgaria, Finland and Austria saw a decline in asthma death rates, with Germany leading the way with an 11% drop from 2011–2015

Asthma UK says that the UK’s poor death rate for asthma attacks may be because the condition is not taken seriously enough, with previous research from the charity revealing that one in six people in the UK do not know or are unsure if the condition can be fatal.

Asthma UK suggests the lack of basic care patients are getting in the UK could also be a contributing factor. Almost two thirds (65%) of people with asthma are not receiving the basic care, which should include an annual review, a check to ensure they are using their inhaler properly and a written asthma action plan.

Asthma UK says this lack of basic care is ‘extremely worrying’ as the National Review of Asthma Deaths revealed two thirds of asthma deaths could have been prevented with basic asthma care.

The charity is urging the NHS to invest in better asthma frontline services – including better tests to diagnose people and access to new treatments for severe asthma – and for the Government to invest in research for an asthma cure.

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, says:

‘It is truly shocking that so many people in the UK are dying from asthma attacks and while other countries are improving, we are lagging behind.

‘While we don’t know for sure why the UK is performing so poorly in preventing deaths from asthma, we think a lack of understanding could play a part.’

May 2018