Scotland's delay on guidance for emergency asthma medicines at school puts thousands of children at risk

Asthma UK is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently prioritise the publication of essential guidance to allow schools to keep and administer spare asthma reliever inhalers in an emergency, after it was confirmed that this has been delayed.

Following a change in the law that came into force on 1 October 2014, equivalent guidance has already been issued to schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However in response to a letter from Ken Macintosh MSP, the Minister responsible, Dr Alasdair Allan MSP1, states that the development of the guidance in Scotland 'has not concluded' and that timescales for the completion of this work are 'yet to be set'.

Almost two thirds of children with asthma across the UK have had an asthma attack at school and 86% of children have been without their own inhaler because it was lost, forgotten, broken or had run out. Until guidance is developed, children and young people with asthma in Scotland will be at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts across the rest of the UK.

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive Officer at Asthma UK, says: "Every ten seconds someone with asthma is having a potentially life threatening asthma attack in the UK. With two children with asthma in every classroom in the UK, we're really concerned that this delay is denying children and young people with asthma in Scotland the help they need to cope in an emergency. It's vital that the Scottish Government urgently prioritises development of guidelines on safe administration of medicines in school. We understand the Government has to juggle many competing priorities, so we would like to work with them to agree a new timetable for publication and develop the guidelines as quickly as possible."

Ken Macintosh MSP and co-convener of the Cross Party Group on Asthma, adds: "From asthma inhalers and epipens, to eczema creams and nut allergies, responsibility for medicines at school is a live issue and a constant worry for parents and for teachers too. I was assured by the Cabinet Secretary more than two years ago that the new guidance would be published in 2014. The Minister now says he's consulting on a timetable for a further consultation! We must not allow children with health conditions to miss out on their education and I would ask the Scottish Government to act in a way that matches the sense of anxiety and urgency felt by families."

Parents and supporters in Scotland are being urged to tweet @scotgov with the hashtag #safeatschool to urge them to prioritise the development of guidelines on the use of emergency inhalers in schools2 to help keep children with asthma in Scotland safe.

Parents of children with asthma can find advice and information on the Asthma UK website3. Parents can also call Asthma UKs friendly expert helpline nurses on 0300 222 5800 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm). Any child experiencing an asthma attack should follow medical advice or call 999.

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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).

Notes to Editors

  1. The Scottish Government's Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages.
  2. The Human Medicines (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014. This page contains the Amendment to the Human Medicines Act (bullet point four) which states that 'inhalers containing salbutamol can be supplied in schools in an emergency by persons trained to administer them to pupils who are known to require such medication'.
  3. Downloadable action plans: http://www.asthma.org.uk/resources#ChildDownloads
    Asthma and school: http://www.asthma.org.uk/advice-school
    Looking after your child's asthma: http://www.asthma.org.uk/advice-manage-children

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

In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).

The UK has one of the highest prevalence rates for asthma in Europe, according to the ERS Whitebook.

The UK has some of the highest asthma death rates in Western Europe according to the Death rates (all ages) for OECD nations and the World Health Organisation.

Three people die every day because of asthma; based on mortality data from Office for National Statistics (ONS) for England Wales, General Register Office for Scotland, and Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency (Northern Ireland). 1255 people died from asthma in 2013 divided by 365, this works out as 3.4 people per day.

Tragically, the National Review of Asthma Deaths found that two thirds of asthma deaths are preventable with good, basic care.

8 out of 10 people with asthma do not receive care that meets the most basic clinical standards.