Hundreds of asthma attack deaths in Scotland must be a 'wake-up' call to government warns charity

Embargoed 00.01 Thursday 27th June 2019


Asthma UK say a lack of basic asthma care could be to blame for tragic deaths as it calls on the Scottish Government to take urgent action 

New analysis from Asthma UK today has revealed that in the last five years, more than 500 people have died from an asthma attack in Scotland.1

114 people died from an asthma attack in Scotland last year compared to 126 in 20172 but while the number of deaths has dropped, Asthma UK says too many lives are being lost due to a lack of basic asthma care.

The charity’s research found that more than half of people in Scotland (60%) are not getting basic asthma care3 even though it is recommended by national guidelines.4

The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD), commissioned by the NHS and Department of Health, found that two-thirds of asthma deaths could have been prevented by better basic care.5

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.

Around 363,000 people in Scotland have asthma.6 Asthma UK helps to support people with asthma through its website, WhatsApp service and nurse helpline.

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said:

“It is absolutely appalling that hundreds of people with asthma in Scotland are still needlessly dying from asthma attacks.

“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 been ignored.  This is not good enough.

“The Scottish Government needs to act now to ensure that everyone with asthma in Scotland gets basic asthma care which includes a yearly review with their GP or asthma nurse, a check to ensure they are using their inhaler properly and a written asthma action plan. The Government needs to ensure that all healthcare professionals are providing this care to patients.”

Anthony Fagg, 53, from Darvel, Ayrshire, lost his 12-year-old son Tony to a fatal asthma attack in April 2013. Tony lived with his mum but Anthony was by his bedside when he died.

“Tony had asthma from a very young age but he never let it get in the way of him doing the things that he loved. He was a fun-loving, popular kid who loved skateboarding, swimming and running. We had a great bond and were looking forward to going to Turkey on holiday that summer. 

“I will never forget the day that Tony passed away. Only a couple of hours earlier I was wishing him goodnight and saying ‘I love you’ then at midnight I got a call from my eldest son saying Tony had been blue-lighted to hospital. Just four hours later he was pronounced dead as doctors had been unable to revive him. It completely tore me apart.

“Tony wasn’t given basic asthma care such as an inhaler check to ensure his medicine reached his lungs properly or an asthma action plan that told us what medicines he was taking and how to stay well. It’s appalling that in this day and age people are still dying from asthma, devastating families and local communities. Everyone with asthma in Scotland should get life-saving basic asthma care, which can keep people with asthma out of hospital and save lives.”

  • ENDS -

Notes to editors:

  1. Asthma UK analysed asthma deaths data from the National Records of Scotland, Vital Events Reference Tables between 2014-18 inclusive. Between 2014-2018, 567 people died from an asthma attack. 
  1. Ibid
  2. Asthma UK, The reality of asthma care in the UK, p15
  3. Healthcare Improvement Scotland, British Guideline on the management of asthma, p139
  1. Royal College of Physicians, The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD): Why Asthma Still Kills. NRAD was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) on behalf of NHS England, NHS Wales, the Health and Social Care division of the Scottish government, the Department of Health, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS).
  1. Scottish Government, (2003). Scottish Health Survey, Summary of Key Findings.