Asthma deaths: patients 'dying needlessly' because of poor care, report warns

The UK has one of the highest asthma death rates in Europe

Asthma patients are dying needlessly because of failings in their care, a damning new report by medical experts has found.

Patients are receiving inadequate information, education and advice on managing their asthma, the report states, while medics are failing to spot key signs showing patients are struggling.

The authors are now calling for an end to “complacency” around asthma care, after the report identified “major avoidable factors” in two thirds of asthma deaths, indicating more deaths could be preventable if these factors are addressed.

In 2012, 1,242 people died from asthma in the UK, one of the highest asthma death rates in Europe. There are 5.5 million asthmatics in Britain.

For the report, experts from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) examined 195 asthma deaths, including 28 children.

They identified at least one “major potential avoidable factor” in 67 per cent of the cases.

GP Dr Mark Levy, RCP's clinical lead for the report, said doctors, patients and their families failed to recognise life-threatening danger signs of the condition.

The review found that many of the patients who died had excessively used their reliever inhalers in the months running up to their deaths, suggesting they were not managing their disease well.

Medics should have spotted that they were repeatedly prescribing these inhalers and taken action, the authors said.

Meanwhile one in 10 of those who died had been admitted to A&E for an asthma attack within the four weeks before their death.

Almost half (45 per cent) of those people who died following an asthma attack did not receive any medical help during their attack and the vast majority of children died before they reached hospital.

Dr Levy said: “It might be that in these cases people were complacent about their asthma and we feel that the majority of these people did not know what to do.”

He said that three quarters of those who died did not have a personalised asthma plan which would have provided them with this information.

The experts said that half of those who died were being treated for mild or moderate asthma at the time - indicating that neither patients or medics realised how serious the cases were.

The report concluded: “The review found deficiencies in both the routine care of asthma patients and the treatment of attacks.

“In many instances neither doctors nor patients recognised the signs of deteriorating asthma; they also did not react quickly enough when these were seen.”

In the UK, three people die from asthma every day and every 10 seconds someone suffers from a potentially life-threatening attack.

Charity Asthma UK said that prescribing errors were detected in 47 per cent of the deaths studied.

Kay Boycott, chief executive of the charity, said the study identified prescribing errors of a “frankly horrifying scale” and is a “damning indictment” of current routine practice.

The report, released to coincide with World Asthma Day, includes a series of recommendations for healthcare workers including the introduction of an electronic surveillance system to be set up to show doctors and pharmacists when people excessively use reliever medication and do not use enough preventative medication.

Anyone who has been taken to hospital as an emergency should be reviewed within 48 hours.

The authors also said that more must be done to educate people about their condition and recommended that health care organisation should have one named individual with a responsibility for asthma care.

Professor Mike Morgan, NHS England's national clinical director for respiratory services, said: “These statistics are a call to action for commissioners, health professionals and patients.

“Every patient should have a care plan which should be regularly reviewed and patients should be supported to manage their asthma, including effective inhaler technique and knowledge of their condition.

A spokesperson for St John Ambulance said: "Complacency about asthma is very dangerous, as we have seen from this report. Knowing basic first aid can be crucial in helping asthma sufferers during an attack.

"Simple steps such as keeping the sufferer calm, sitting them in a comfortable upright breathing position, encouraging them to use their inhaler, and calling for emergency help will ensure they get the immediate attention they need to stop their condition from becoming, in some cases, fatal."

Additional reporting by Press Association

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

    £12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders