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Newly released data shows that deaths from asthma in the UK are the highest they have been in more than ten years. More than 1,400 adults and children died from asthma attacks in 2018 – that’s almost 3 people out of every 100,000. Respiratory Physiotherapist Alex Hough offers her perspective on why these avoidable deaths are on the rise.
Sputnik: First of all, I just wanted to ask about these figures about asthma. Do they come to surprise to you that there are more deaths related to asthma in the UK?
Alex Hough: No, they’re not at all surprising. But what has happened is that it’s a cutback, of course, that does it. Of all the people who died from asthma, every single one is avoidable. They eliminated asthma deaths in Glasgow completely, because they had a good program, they put money into it, which of course, is in short supply now. So it doesn’t surprise me, it depresses me.
Sputnik: Now, these deaths, are they related to any external factors beyond the monetary situation you just mentioned?
Alex Hough: Most of it indirectly is related to monetary. Like if they’ve cut the school playing fields, they’ve cut 81 youth clubs in London. A lot of it is due to the stress on the health service. They haven’t cut back on the health service. But the reason health service is under such stress is the knockbacks from the care homes. Because the cutbacks to the local authorities have meant that they haven’t got the money for the care homes, which means that you get bed-blocking, so people stay in hospital longer. Also, GPs get more busy. And the GPs do not have time to look at people with asthma properly. People with asthma need to be under a specialist because otherwise they just get given inhaler after inhaler. And if you take too many of blue inhalers, it actually increases mortality.
Sputnik: I’ve seen some reports online that link this rise in asthma-related deaths along with air quality. What is your opinion on that?
Alex Hough: A third of childhood asthma is due to air pollution. That is really again, it’s multifactorial, if you don’t use proper transport, people are driving their children the school, and you get horrendous pollution around schools. And there are lots of initiatives that could reduce that. Something as simple as having car-free zones outside schools, which several places have done.
For instance, making sure people understand that you get more pollution inside a car than outside. Because people think they’ll put their children in the car to avoid deletion, but they get more pollution inside. So it’s all due to poor policies: cut back, austerity, poor policy and particularly non-joined-up systems.
Sputnik: Now a lot of what we’ve discussed here has been related to childhood asthma. But the figures that came out today were pretty clear that this rise in death of risen among adults with asthma as well. What can be done to serious chronic adult asthma sufferers?
Alex Hough: Well, it’s two-pronged which is the environment and the health service. Because all the different agencies don’t join up, that’s what’s happening. We need a government that will do more than just get us out of Europe. They need to join up all these agencies that’s why in Glasgow they eliminated asthma death, because they joined up the local authorities, the hospitals and the ambulance services. So that they eliminated death from what’s called ‘Brittle Asthma’.
Brittle asthma is the worst form. Sometimes it’s called Ferrari asthma, naught to 60. If you don’t get to IC or to the A&E department quickly, you can die. So it’s not so common, but those are the ones who tend to die and they eliminated that simply by joining up the GPS, the Ambulance Service, hospitals and the schools and local authorities and that’s how they did it.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.