Asthma deaths have risen by a third over past decade in England and Wales

Author: Caroline White

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The death toll from asthma is the highest it has been in the past decade, and has increased by more than 33% during that time, finds charity Asthma UK’s analysis of the latest mortality data* from The Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Around 4.8 million people in England and Wales have asthma, and the charity is now is calling on the NHS to take urgent action to plug gaps in basic asthma care.

More than 1400 people died from an asthma attack last year, an increase of 8% on equivalent figures for 2017.

More men are now dying from asthma attacks, and there has been a 42% increase in deaths among 35-44 year olds in the past year.

Asthma deaths rose by 25% in the South-East between 2017 and 2018, with London seeing a 17% increase during this period.

Asthma UK says a lack of basic asthma care may have contributed to the rise as 60% of people with asthma in England and Wales ─ an estimated 2.9 million people ─ aren’t getting basic care as recommended by national guidelines.

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

Of the 19 recommendations made by NRAD, only one has been partially implemented, says Asthma UK.

Its analysis also reveals that more than 12,700 people have died from asthma in England and Wales in the past decade, and there has been a 17% increase in the age-standardised asthma death rate over the past six years.

Basic care, which every asthma patient is entitled to, should include a yearly review with a GP or asthma nurse, a written asthma action plan which explains how people with asthma can stay well, and an inhaler technique check.

Child asthma deaths are rare, but in recent years children have died because they didn’t get the basic care they needed.

“It is completely unacceptable that thousands of people with asthma in England and Wales have died needlessly from asthma attacks,” commented Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK. 

“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.”

She added: “The NHS must act now to ensure that everyone with asthma in England and Wales gets basic asthma care…The NHS needs to ensure that all healthcare professionals are providing this care to patients.”


*Deaths registered in England and Wales 2018. The Office for National Statistics, 6 August 2019. Data extracted via Nomis. 

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Editorial team, Wilmington Healthcare

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