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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 00:18 GMT 01:18 UK
Asthma children 'get raw deal'
Campaigners are calling for government action
Campaigners are calling for government action
Campaigners have attacked government "indifference" towards asthma, which they say is now the most common long-term childhood illness.

The National Asthma Campaign is warning that children with asthma are still getting a raw deal, putting their health at risk, while parents are not getting the professional support they need.

In a survey looking at asthma in the UK, the charity found one in eight children are currently being treated for asthma symptoms and one in five have been diagnosed with asthma at some point.

These new figures highlight the seriousness of childhood asthma in the UK

Professor Martyn Partridge, National Asthma Campaign
The NAC also found the UK has the highest rate of severe wheeze in the world for children aged 13 to 14.

It estimates the annual NHS bill for asthma is 254m.

'Asthma summit' call

The asthma survey, and a separate report on the impact of asthma on family life are published to mark World Asthma Day on Tuesday.

In the report, 'Sleepless Nights, Anxious Days' for which 1,000 asthma sufferers and parents were surveyed, the NAC says GPs and teachers are putting children's health at risk because of a lack of time and resources.

It says half a million parents face:-

  • Problems getting an early, accurate diagnosis
  • A lack of support from their child's school
  • Bad experiences in A&E
  • Substandard care from the GP
  • Anxiety about medication

The NAC said the government could enable parents to avoid these problems.

It is calling for an "asthma summit", and other measures, such as prioritising asthma in the new National Service Framework for children and minimum standards for NHS asthma care.

The NAC is also calling for resources to allow improved care by GPs and nurses - and legislation to make it compulsory for all schools to implement an asthma policy.

Testing should be more widely available, and government research carried to discover why children develop asthma and how to prevent it, said the NAC.

Battle for care

Professor Martyn Partridge, chief medical adviser to the charity said: "These new figures highlight the seriousness of childhood asthma in the UK.

"GPs and nurses stand no chance of managing asthma properly when their time and resources are limited.

"It's essential that every child with asthma gets a timely diagnosis and appropriate monitoring and treatment if they are to lead the healthy life they are entitled to."

Chief executive Donna Covey, said; "A child's asthma is best controlled when they are cared for by knowledgeable, asthma aware healthcare professionals who are able to give them the time they need and are supported in school by trained and confident teachers.

"Sadly, for a substantial number of parents in the UK, this doesn't happen. They have to fight to get the care and support they and their child need."

A Department of Health spokesperson, said "People with asthma will benefit from the emerging Expert Patients Programme, which via the NHS provides patients with long term chronic conditions the opportunity to manage their own treatment."

She added: "We are currently in the process of clarifying the precise scope of the Children's NSF.

"This will include consideration of standards for children suffering from long-term illnesses, such as asthma."

"We are in on-going discussions with NAC, the British Thoracic Society and the British Lung Foundation."

Parents can contact the National Asthma Campaign for advice on the Asthma Helpline on 08457 01 02 03, or by emailing an asthma nurse at throughout May.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"There's still no explanation for why asthma is on the increase"
See also:

30 Apr 02 | Health
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01 Apr 02 | Health
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04 Mar 02 | Health
Asthma patients 'miss out'
01 Oct 01 | Health
Parenting link to asthma
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