Essential facts, stats and quotes relating to asthma

Published on: 7th January 2016 | Updated on: 28th March 2022

This page contains facts, stats and quotes that LPC members may find useful when writing business cases or developing resources to support the commissioning of an asthma management service or inhaler technique service.

This page is ‘work in progress’ and will continue to be updated with new facts, stats and quotes.

Facts, stats and quotes on other topics can be accessed on the Essential facts, stats and quotes page.

Asthma UK, UK asthma death rates among worst in Europe (May 2018)

  • The UK has one of the worst asthma death rates in Europe, with the rate of people dying from an asthma attack increasing by more than 20% in five years.
  • The rate of asthma deaths in the UK has increased by more than 20% in five years, with figures from 2015 showing 1,434 people died from an asthma attack.
  • The UK’s average asthma death rate over five years is worse than countries such as Greece, Italy and the Netherlands  – and it is almost 50% higher than the average death rate in the European Union.
  • Experts at Asthma UK say that the UK’s poor death rate for asthma attacks may be because the condition is not taken seriously enough, with previous research from the charity revealing that 1 in 6 people in the UK do not know or unsure if the condition can be fatal.
  • Asthma UK suggests the lack of basic care patients are getting in the UK could also be a contributing factor. Almost two thirds (65%) of people with asthma are not receiving the basic care from healthcare professionals that they are entitled to, which includes a yearly review, a check to ensure they are using their inhaler properly and a written asthma action plan

Asthma UK, Asthma facts and statistics (accessed January 2016)

  • 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Asthma prevalence is thought to have plateaued since the late 1990s, although the UK still has some of the highest rates in Europe and on average 3 people a day die from asthma.
  • In 2014 (the most recent data available) 1,216 people died from asthma.
  • The NHS spends around 1 billion a year treating and caring for people with asthma.
  • One in 11 children has asthma and it is the most common long-term medical condition.
  • On average there are three children with asthma in every classroom in the UK.
  • The UK has among the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide.
  • Asthma attacks hospitalise someone every 8 minutes; 185 people are admitted to hospital because of asthma attacks every day in the UK (a child is admitted to hospital every 20 minutes because of an asthma attack).

Asthma UK, Patient safety failures in asthma care: the scale of unsafe prescribing in the UK (June 2015)

  • Around 23,000 people with asthma, including 2,000 children, may have been prescribed unlicensed medicine which puts them at a higher risk of death.
  • A total of 5,032 people had been prescribed more than 12 reliever inhalers over a 12 month period, 1,965 of them without being reviewed – that’s almost 40%. This includes 117 children not reviewed. For these people, the number of excessive reliever inhalers prescribed ranged from 13 up to 80 per person in 12 months. Given that 6 is a clear warning sign of poor asthma control, that’s up to almost 13 times more medicine than they should need. (Sample from 94,955 people with asthma, taken from a number of GP databases from across the UK).
  • When the above is applied to the UK population, this indicates that around 106,742 people with asthma in the UK may have been prescribed excessive amounts of reliever medication without being reviewed: this includes over 10,000 children under 15 who may not have had a review to monitor their medication, despite such prescribing putting them at higher risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • It is vital that people with asthma are trained in good inhaler technique to ensure they are able to take their medicine correctly and receive the right dosage, as prescribed. Poor technique is a clear indicator of poor control, putting people with asthma at risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • When up to 90% of NHS asthma budget is spent on medicines, more should be done to reduce inefficiencies in prescribing.

Royal College of Physicians, Why asthma still kills The National Review of Asthma Deaths (May 2014)

Use of NHS services

  • During the final attack of asthma, 87 (45%) of the 195 people were known to have died without seeking medical assistance or before emergency medical care could be provided.
  • The majority of people who died from asthma (112, 57%) were not recorded as being under specialist supervision during the 12 months prior to death. Only 83 (43%) were managed in secondary or tertiary care during this period.
  • There was a history of previous hospital admission for asthma in 47% (90 of 190).
  • Nineteen (10%) of the 195 died within 28 days of discharge from hospital after treatment for asthma.

Medical and professional care

  • Personal asthma action plans, acknowledged to improve asthma care, were known to be provided to only 44 (23%) of the 195 people who died from asthma.
  • There was no evidence that an asthma review had taken place in general practice in the last year before death for 84 (43%) of the 195 people who died.
  • The expert panels identified factors that could have avoided death in relation to the health professional’s implementation of asthma guidelines in 89 (46%) of the 195 deaths, including lack of specific asthma expertise in 34 (17%) and lack of knowledge of the UK asthma guidelines in 48 (25%).

Prescribing and medicine use

  • There was evidence of excessive prescribing of reliever medication. Among 189 patients who were on short-acting relievers at the time of death, the number of prescriptions was known for 165, and 65 of these (39%) had been prescribed more than 12 short-acting reliever inhalers in the year before they died, while six (4%) had been prescribed more than 50 reliever inhalers. Those prescribed more than 12 reliever inhalers were likely to have had poorly controlled asthma.
  • There was evidence of under-prescribing of preventer medication. To comply with recommendations, most patients would usually need at least 12 preventer prescriptions per year. Among 168 patients on preventer inhalers at the time of death, either as stand-alone or in combination, the number of prescriptions was known for 128, and 49 of these (38%) were known to have been issued with fewer than four and 103 (80%) issued with fewer than 12 preventer inhalers in the previous year.
  • There was evidence of inappropriate prescribing of long-acting beta agonist (LABA) bronchodilator inhalers. From available data, 27 (14%) of those who died were prescribed a single-component LABA bronchodilator at the time of death. At least five (3%) patients were on LABA monotherapy without inhaled corticosteroid preventer treatment.

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