Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Asthma pressure on hospital beds
Asthma affects 750,000 schoolchildren
Far too many emergency hospital beds are taken up by asthma sufferers, according to a national charity.
Around 100,000 people have to be admitted to hospital each year when they suffer an asthma attack.
The National Asthma Campaign (NAC) says many of these admissions could be avoided if there was a sea change in our attitudes and approach to the condition.
"These people are in hospital because they are seriously ill and need hospital treatment," says NAC's Chief Executive Anne Bradley.
"However, if these people had been better informed about their asthma, had had different or better prior care from their asthma clinic or GP, or had different support at school or at work, then a significant proportion of these admissions could be avoided."
NAC has long complained about the standards of asthma care offered in different parts of the UK.
It already has a charter that sets out what it believes sufferers have a right to expect from the National Health Service.
Now it is launching an Asthma Agenda which lists those rights and the steps the campaign is taking to achieve them, including policies to help children at school and the funding of medical research.
Anne Bradley says everyone has a responsibility to meet the asthma challenge to prevent what amounts to a big waste of NHS resources.
"It's not just about the healthcare the sufferer receives, it's also about what happens to them at school and in the workplace.
"We must ensure that people are protected from substances that will aggravate their asthma and that children have easy access to their inhalers and medication.
"Asthma is relevant to you because it affects all sorts of people in every walk of life," she says.
NAC aims to get 50,000 people to sign the agenda document. Top celebrities including Gavin Hastings, Terry Waite and Shaznay Lewis from the chart-topping band All Saints have already pledged their support.
"Asthma is breathtakingly bad, and, in Britain, it is growing at a breathtaking pace. The Asthma Agenda is all about improving the lives of people with asthma - I've signed it and so should you."
The number of asthma cases is rising fast in the UK: in 1973, 4% of the population were diagnosed as asthmatic; in 1996 the figure was 21%.
It is estimated that around 3.4 million people are now affected, including 750,000 schoolchildren.
According to the NAC, asthma causes 2,000 deaths a year in the UK, 80% of which could be avoided.
People can get a copy of the agenda on 0171 226 2260 ext. 385.