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Those from deprived areas ‘more likely to end up in A&E with asthma attack’

The charity analysed data for people with asthma (Peter Byrne/PA)
The charity analysed data for people with asthma (Peter Byrne/PA)

People living in the most deprived areas are three times more likely to end up in accident and emergency with asthma attacks than those in the wealthiest areas, according to new analysis.

Asthma and Lung UK Scotland said people from the poorest areas of Scotland account for nearly a third of all emergency admissions to hospital for asthma.

The charity said it is shocking that people are “fighting for breath” because of where they live and it is calling for lung health to be made a priority in plans to tackle health inequalities.

For its research, the charity analysed data on asthma emergency admissions by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintile.

It found that between January 2017 and September 2021, 32.7% of emergency admissions for asthma in Scotland were from the poorest quintile, while 11.6% were from the wealthiest quintile.

Meanwhile, its 2021 annual asthma survey found that only 25% of people in Scotland are receiving basic asthma care – the lowest level since it began collecting data in 2013.

Joseph Carter, head of Asthma and Lung UK Scotland, said: “It is shocking that people with asthma in Scotland are fighting for breath, having life-threatening asthma attacks and repeated trips to hospital because of where they live.

“Everyone should be entitled to basic asthma care such as a yearly check-up and help using their inhaler so they can manage their condition.

“These statistics highlight the need to make lung health a priority in plans to tackle health inequalities, given its significant role in fuelling poor health outcomes in Scotland.

“In particular, we need a focus on prevention, including plans to drive down smoking rates and reduce air pollution and targeted awareness campaigns for the communities that need it most. Lung conditions need to be taken as seriously as other major illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.”

The charity said the proportion of people receiving basic asthma care in Scotland is lower than across the UK, where it is 30%.

Mr Carter said: “With Scotland lagging behind other UK nations for the first time in delivering basic asthma care, we also need to see radical improvements in the way health services diagnose, treat and help people manage asthma.

“This starts with health services doing much more to ensure everyone with suspected asthma gets a timely and accurate diagnosis, and access to basic asthma care once they are diagnosed.”

Asthma and Lung UK Scotland will discuss health inequality with MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday, when the charity will be hosting an event led by its chief executive Sarah Woolnough and Mr Carter, with guest clinician Dr Tom Fardon and patient Linda McLeod.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The inequalities experienced by those who face the most disadvantage are unfair and unjust. We are committed to ensuring that everyone living with respiratory conditions can access safe, effective and person-centred care, treatment and support.

“The Respiratory Care Action Plan for Scotland sets out our vision for driving improvement in the prevention, diagnosis, care, treatment and support of respiratory conditions such as asthma.

“The plan will play a key role in responding to the direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic on respiratory services.

“Improving air quality and in turn the health of our people and planet is also an urgent priority for this government and we’re taking action across the board to deliver this.

“In addition, Scotland’s Low Emission Zones will provide real benefits for thousands of people in Scotland’s cities – they will reduce harmful emissions significantly and help to deliver air quality objectives.

“These will be introduced in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh by the end of this month in an important step forward for the wellbeing of our communities and environment.”