Experts suggest poor UK ranking could be due to patients missing out on basic asthma care and a lack of awareness about the seriousness of asthma
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 five years. According to a new analysis released by Asthma UK for World Asthma Day.
Asthma UK’s analysis of the most recent Europe-wide figures from 2011 to 2015 found that:
Experts at Asthma UK say that the UK’s poor death rate for asthma attacks could be because the condition is not taken seriously enough. Previous research from the charity reveals that that 1 in 6 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 from healthcare professionals that they are entitled to. This includes a yearly 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’. The National Review of Asthma Deaths revealed two-thirds of asthma deaths could have been prevented with basic asthma care.
The charity is calling for everyone to play their part this World Asthma Day to combat the illness, which leaves people gasping for breath and can affect people’s health, relationships and work.
It 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. As well as the Government to invest in research for an asthma cure.
It is also calling for healthcare professionals to follow asthma guidelines. As well as for those with asthma to get in touch if they need health advice.
Call for more research into asthma
Cathy Worboys, 49, a personal assistant from Ware in Hertfordshire, is calling for more research into asthma this World Asthma Day. After her daughter, Holly, 19, died from an asthma attack in January 2016.
“Holly was a loving, supportive daughter and sister, and full of life. Her death has left a gaping hole in our lives.
“Holly had asthma from a young age but it was mild, so it was a huge shock when she appeared at my bedroom door after a night out saying she couldn’t breathe.
“She went into the garden to try and catch her breath while I got her inhaler. By the time I got outside, she was unconscious. I called an ambulance and our neighbour began CPR, then she was rushed to hospital. When doctors said Holly had died we were completely and utterly heartbroken.
“People don’t realise asthma can kill so this World Asthma Day, I want people to take it seriously and make sure they use their inhalers. But I also want more research into a cure for this horrible illness, that took away my beautiful daughter.”
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.
“Asthma kills and we are urging the NHS to invest in better frontline asthma services, for people with asthma to make sure they take their medication properly, and for healthcare professionals to take asthma seriously, diagnose asthma patients effectively and treat them promptly.
“This World Asthma Day we’re also calling for funding into more research to find a cure for asthma, so we can stamp out this vicious and unpredictable illness that claims lives.”
Over three million asthmatics have not been tested for the triggers that could cause a fatal attack, figures suggest.
Allergic asthma is the commonest form of the condition, accounting for 50% of adults and 90% of children.
A new study of over 5,000 asthma patients shows that only 1 in 3 have been allergy tested. Even though 2017 NICE guidance for asthma treatment recommends specific IgE testing to identify allergens as soon as a formal asthma diagnosis has been made.
Know your triggers
Every ten seconds someone in the UK has an asthma attack. Around three people every day die as a result. The top ten triggers include grass pollen (1st) house dust mites (2nd) and cats (3rd). All of which I am allergic to. If ever I used to visit friends with cats, I used to have to go to A&E within hours. I learned that if I took anti-histamines that this would delay the time I could be in contact with them. However, this would only give me a little time before my face swelled up and I couldn’t breathe.
Megan Winzer, 22, from Letchworth has suffered from asthma since she was one year old. She also has a severe nut allergy. Three anaphylactic shocks in the past 10 years resulted in intensive care admissions. “I know there’s link between asthma and allergy,” she says, “but I’ve never been offered a test and no one has explained the link.”
Over 50% of people who took part in the research believed that understanding their asthma triggers would help them to manage their condition. 90% of those who had been tested believed this was the case.
Dr Shuaib Nasser, Consultant in the Department of Allergy and Asthma at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, commenting of the research which was conducted on behalf of The British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology (BSACI) said “We know that triggers can be identified for many people with asthma – the attacks don’t come out of the blue.”
Patient knowledge of asthma triggers could reduce hospital admissions and save the NHS millions. The cost of asthma to the NHS is GBP 1.1 billion per year. Over GBP 660 million is spent on prescription drugs. NHS data shows that there were more than 77,000 asthma-related hospital admissions in 2018, costing over GBP 120 million.