Improve basic asthma care to curb rise in deaths, charity warns

A new investigation by Asthma UK has found that deaths from the condition are at a 10-year high and have increased by more than 33% over the past decade.

“The same mistakes are being made again and again”

Kay Boycott

The charity’s analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics found that more than 1,400 people died from asthma attack last year, an increase of 8% compared to 2017.

More men are dying from asthma attacks and the figures also show a 42% increase in deaths among people aged 35-44 in the last year.

At a regional level, asthma deaths in the South East of England have risen by a quarter, while London saw a 17% increase between 2017 and 2018.

Lack of routine asthma care may be contributing to the rise in deaths, according to Asthma UK.

Under national guidelines, every asthma patient is entitled to a yearly review with a GP or asthma nurse, a written action plan explaining how people with asthma can stay well, and an inhaler technique check.

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However, the charity found that 60% of people with asthma in England and Wales – an estimated 2.9m people – were not receiving this basic care.

It comes after a national review of asthma deaths commissioned by the government five years ago determined that two-thirds of asthma deaths could have been prevented by better basic care.

The charity claimed that just one of the 19 recommendations made by the review had been partially implemented. 

Commenting on the findings, Amanda Cheesley, the Royal College of Nursing’s professional lead for long-term conditions, said: “It is important that people with asthma have a personalised asthma action plan to help them manage their condition.

“We know that those with such plans can manage their condition much more effectively, lower their risks of life-threatening attacks and thereby, reduce the number of unnecessary deaths from asthma.”

She noted that patients with concerns should be able to access support from their practice nurse, specialist asthma nurse or advanced practitioner.

She added: “Only through proper investment and access to better information can this tragic rise in deaths be halted.”

Asthma UK

Kay Boycott

Kay Boycott

Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, called on health leaders to “act now” to ensure all people with asthma received basic care.

“It is completely unacceptable that thousands of people with asthma in England and Wales have died needlessly from asthma attacks,” she said.

“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 not been implemented. This lack of action is costing lives and devastating families and communities.”

NHS England has been approached by Nursing Times for comment.