London: People suffering from asthma are dying unnecessarily due to complacency among both medical staff and patients, according to the findings of the first national study of asthma deaths in the UK.
The report released on the occasion of World Asthma Day today found that in nearly half of the cases researchers looked at, asthma sufferers did not receive any medical help during their final asthma attack.
The National Review of Asthma Deaths says sufferers and medics must be better at recognising the danger signs.
The UK has 5.5 million asthmatics.
Although deaths linked to the condition have been falling, there were 1,242 in 2012 – meaning the UK has some of the highest asthma death rates in Europe.
The national study involved a detailed examination of the circumstances around 195 such deaths, the BBC reported. Researchers found that clinicians and patients alike had become complacent about the illness.
Since asthma symptoms can come and go, some patients may forget or feel they do not need to keep taking their medication, for example.
The report calls for better monitoring and improved education for doctors, nurses, patients and carers.
Dr Kevin Stewart of the Royal College of Physicians, which managed the review, said: “It’s time to end our complacency about asthma, which can, and does, kill. There are important messages in this report for clinicians, for patients and their families and for policy-makers.
“Too often we have also been slow to detect signs of poor asthma control and slow to act when these have been present, with tragic consequences for some families.”
Prof Chris Griffiths of Queen Mary University of London, also involved in the report, said the study found that care had deteriorated since an analysis in 2005.
“These worrying statistics can and must be turned around in the next decade. Those of us who work in general practice must implement the recommendation to have a named clinician responsible for asthma in each practice.
“Despite facing huge challenges as we work to meet current NHS organisational change, we need to prioritise asthma care in order to reduce deaths in the UK.”
Kay Boycott, chief executive of the Asthma UK says the charity “wholeheartedly endorses” the report.
Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. In 2011, some 300 million people globally have been diagnosed with asthma, and it caused 250,000 deaths.