Asthma sufferers die 'due to complacency'

Man using inhaler for asthma Image copyright BBC elvis
Image caption The Welsh government said it launched a five-year plan to tackle respiratory illnesses, including asthma, last week

People suffering from asthma are dying unnecessarily because of complacency among both medical staff and patients, according to the first national study of asthma deaths in the UK.

The report said 67 people died from the condition in Wales in 2012-13, and 3,571 were hospitalised.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said sufferers and medics must be better at recognising the danger signs.

The Welsh government said it launched a respiratory illness plan last week.

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways that carry air in and out of the lungs.

In Wales, 59,000 children and 256,000 adults are receiving treatment for asthma, according to Asthma UK.

The National Review of Asthma Deaths examined 195 asthma deaths in the UK, including 28 children. It claimed asthma patients are dying needlessly as a result of poor care and said sufferers and medics must be better at recognising the danger signs.

The review highlighted prescribing errors in 47% of UK deaths and room for improvement in the care received by 83% of those who died.

Researchers found that in nearly half of the cases they looked at, asthma sufferers did not receive any medical help during their final asthma attack.

'Urgent need'

Asthma UK described the figures as "horrifying" and said it would be an "absolute scandal" if they were not acted upon.

"This confidential inquiry has identified prescribing errors of a frankly horrifying scale and is a damning indictment of current routine practice," said Asthma UK chief executive Kay Boycott.

"Tragically, we hear far too often from families who've lost a loved one to an asthma attack, with three people killed by asthma every day in the UK.

"Asthma UK's own research shows that too often the 1 in 10 people in Wales who have asthma are short-changed by the system."

GP Dr Mark Levy, RCP's clinical lead for the report, said: "It is very sad that people are not aware that asthma can kill.

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Media captionRadio Wales presenter Kayleigh Thomas spoke to Rachel Blackley, from Treorchy, whose mother died from an asthma attack

"Doctors, patients and their families failed to recognise life-threatening danger signs of asthma.

"We identified major avoidable factors in two-thirds of the people who died."

Sufferers of respiratory illnesses were urged by the Welsh government last week to take personal responsibility for their lifestyle choices in a bid to cut diseases that affect the lungs.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We recognise the need to provide high quality care in the NHS for Asthma.

"This is set out in our Respiratory Health Delivery Plan, which we published last week and aims to reduce the number of unscheduled hospital admissions for asthma. The plan will be supported by a separate children and young peoples' section, which will be published this summer."

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