Asthmatic Scots in deprived areas 'more likely to end up in A&E'

Asthma and Lung UK Scotland said it was shocking Scots were 'fighting for breath' because of where they live.

Scots in deprived areas ‘three times as likely to be admitted to A&E following asthma attack’ iStock
Asthma: Charity calls for lung health to be made a priority in Scotland.

People living in Scotland’s most deprived areas are three times more likely to be admitted to A&E following an asthma attack than those in wealthier areas, a report has found. 

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

The charity said just a quarter of Scots are receiving basic asthma care – including an annual review, inhaler technique check and written asthma plan – in comparison with 30% of people living elsewhere in the UK. 

ALUS said it was “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.

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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 ALUS said: “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 reducing air pollution and targeted awareness campaigns for the communities that need it most.”

Mr Carter added that lung conditions need to be “taken as seriously as other major illnesses” such as cancer and heart disease. 

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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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.”