Asthma sufferers are dying needlessly due to substandard medical care, says the Royal College of Physicians.

An in-depth review of 195 asthma-related deaths revealed two thirds of fatalities could have been avoided.

More than 5 million people have asthma in Britain. Around 1,200 people will die from the condition every year, about 20 of which are children.

The study concluded there was “room for improvement” in 83% of adult deaths, with the overall standard of care deemed inadequate.

The care provided to child asthma sufferers was even worse, with care rated as inadequate in 26 out of 28 deaths that were assessed.

Systemic problems

The National Review of Asthma deaths, led by GP Mark Levy, attributed the deaths to systemic problems throughout the NHS.

It found that guidelines are being routinely neglected. Medical staff are complacent about the condition, with prescriptions errors and a lack of knowledge both common problems.

More than half who died were only being treated for mild asthma, and half had not been prescribed preventative inhalers, despite a history of severe attacks and hospitalisations.

Most of those who died had not been placed under specialist care, and alarmingly half did not have any medical help during their fatal attack.

Mistakes on a “horrifying scale”

Campaigners have called the state of asthma care a national scandal.

Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, said the review had “identified prescribing errors of a frankly horrifying scale and is a damning indictment of current routine practices.

“There would be a national outcry if guidelines were routinely ignored in other conditions as they have been in asthma. It will be an absolute scandal if these findings are not acted upon.”

Substandard asthma care

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