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July 2019

Asthma deaths in Scotland must be a ‘wake-up call’ warns charity

Asthma UK say a lack of basic asthma care could be to blame for tragic deaths as it calls on the Scottish Government to take urgent action

New analysis from Asthma UK has revealed that in the last five years, more than 500 people have died from an asthma attack in Scotland.

Asthma UK reports that 114 people died from an asthma attack in Scotland last year compared to 126 in 2017 but while the number of deaths has dropped, the charity says ‘too many lives are being lost due to a lack of basic asthma care.’

The charity analysed asthma deaths from the National Records of Scotland, and found that between 2014 and 2018, 567 died from an asthma attack.

Asthma UK’s research also found that, even though it is recommended by BTS/SIGN guidelines, more than half of people in Scotland (60%) are not getting basic asthma care:

  • An annual asthma review
  • A written asthma action plan
  • An inhaler technique check with a healthcare professional

The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD), commissioned by the NHS and Department of Health, found that two-thirds of asthma deaths could have been prevented by better basic care.

Around 363,000 people in Scotland have asthma.

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said:

‘It is absolutely appalling that hundreds of people with asthma in Scotland are still needlessly dying from asthma attacks.

‘It’s been five years since the National Review of Asthma Deaths found that two-thirds of deaths from asthma attacks could have been prevented with basic care yet we are still seeing tragic cases of lives being cut short. The same mistakes are being made again and again because essential recommendations have been ignored. This is not good enough.

‘The Scottish Government needs to act now to ensure that everyone with asthma in Scotland gets basic asthma care which includes a yearly review with their GP or asthma nurse, a check to ensure they are using their inhaler properly and a written asthma action plan.’

Asthma UK’s annual asthma survey for 2018, published earlier this year, found:

  • Three out of five people didn’t receive basic care
  • Young people receive the worst level of basic care
  • People may be suffering more asthma attacks than previously estimated (two attacks per year, compared with 0.57 calculated from 2013 surveillance data)
  • Follow-up after emergency care is still being missed.

Scotland is not an isolated case, with widespread variation throughout the UK in the percentage of people receiving basic care.