Asthma deaths in UK at highest level in over a decade

First published: 31 August 2016

The number of people dying from asthma in the UK has reached its highest level in more than a decade, according to new figures released by Asthma UK today.

The shocking statistics, compiled by the Office for National Statistics (England and Wales), the National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency reveal that 1,468 people died from asthma attacks in the UK in 2015, an increase of 21 per cent compared with the previous year (1,212).

With the number of people dying from asthma increasing, the charity warns the need for better asthma care is more urgent than ever. In particular, it is calling on the government to take action to see digital health technology, that already exists, implemented across the NHS to improve asthma care and ultimately save lives. This includes the introduction of smart inhalers, digital asthma action plans and GP receiving electronic alerts.

By improving asthma care, the charity argues that digital technology would also ease pressure on the NHS. Asthma currently accounts for 2-3% of primary care consultations at a cost of £52 million each year, but improved asthma health would lead to a reduction in routine GP appointments needed, saving the NHS both time and money. 

In 2014, the Royal College of Physicians highlighted that ‘complacency in asthma care must end’ in its National Review of Asthma Deaths. 

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said: “The alarming increase in asthma deaths over the last decade is an urgent wake-up call to the government to take action to improve standards of asthma care now. A huge opportunity to do this lies in making already existing digital health technology more widely available on the NHS.

“Asthma action plans play a vital role in helping people to manage their asthma well, making it four times less likely that a person will end up in hospital due to an asthma attack, yet only 35 per cent of people have one. Making these paper plans available in a digital format, and therefore instantly accessible via their smart phones or tablets, is a simple step that could significantly improve how well people manage their condition. 

“Digital technology could also enable GPs to get an overall picture of the health of patients with asthma if investment is put into smart inhalers which link to a smartphone and detect when an inhaler is used, tracking use in real-time. Digital alerts notifying GPs when a patient attends A&E with an asthma attack would also ensure GPs have a full picture of each patient’s asthma health and can tailor their care accordingly.

“Bearing in mind that 85% of asthma patients are being treated in primary care at GP surgeries, digital health technology can also play a huge part in easing the burden on the already overstretched NHS resource and budget. Asthma care costs the UK £1.1 billion each year. Reducing the number of routine GP appointments through improved care would also free up time and better enable GPs to focus their attention on the people with asthma who are at the greatest risk.”

With someone having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds, in addition to the steps we are calling on government to take action to improve asthma care, there are a number of steps that people living with the condition can take to greatly reduce their risk of having an asthma attack. These are:   

  • Take your medicines as prescribed
  • Follow a written asthma action plan which cuts the risk of ending up in hospital with asthma by four times
  • Have regular asthma reviews with your GP or asthma nurse
  • Check with your GP or asthma nurse that you're using your inhaler correctly
  • Avoid the things that trigger your asthma where possible.

Anyone with concerns or questions about their asthma can call the Asthma UK helpline on 0300 222 5800 to speak to an expert asthma nurse.

*UK asthma deaths over the past decade 

Year

England

& Wales

Scotland

Northern

Ireland

UK

2006

1076

82

35

1193

2007

1032

112

27

1171

2008

1069

103

30

1202

2009

1016

93

23

1132

2010

1018

91

34

1143

2011

1039

94

33

1166

2012

1122

89

31

1242

2013

1109

105

37

1251

2014

1110

72

30

1212

2015

1302

122

44

1468

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For more information please contact the Asthma UK media team on mediaoffice@asthma.org.uk, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

About Asthma UK

  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.
  • Asthma UK is solely funded by public donations
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 222 5800.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk

Background information on asthma