Asthma care at standstill, charity warns as grieving family calls for awareness

Warren Dowling died when he was just 10.

A charity has raised concerns over asthma deaths in the UK
A charity has raised concerns over asthma deaths in the UK (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asthma care is at a “standstill”, a leading charity warned as a grieving mother has called for more awareness around the condition following the death of her son.

Ten-year-old Warren Dowling died suddenly after a day feeling “fine” at school and playing with his younger brother on a trampoline.

But his mother described how he asked for his inhaler after playing outside, but then quickly turned blue and stopped breathing.

Belinda Dowling, from Portsmouth, wants more to be done to raise the profile of the severity of the condition, saying that there has “never been enough awareness of asthma”.

It comes as Asthma and Lung UK warned that “little has been done” in a decade since a landmark report into asthma, which set out how the majority of asthma deaths are preventable and what steps could be taken to help prevent these deaths.

The charity said that more than 12,000 people in the UK have died from asthma attacks since the National Review of Asthma Deaths report was published.

It said that “shockingly little has changed” since the report was published and that “asthma care is at a standstill”.

Warren, one of seven siblings, died in March last year.

“They say your life can change in a moment and we didn’t know how true that was,” said Mrs Dowling.

“Warren mostly managed fine with his asthma, but once or twice a year he’d have a really bad asthma attack and have to go to hospital, which was frightening.

“Then one evening last March, after he’d been fine in school all day and happily played with his little brother Cameron on the trampoline, he came to me and said he needed his inhaler. It didn’t seem to be working and he started to panic, then while I was on the phone for an ambulance, he turned blue and stopped breathing.

“His dad did CPR until the ambulance arrived and got him to hospital, but there was nothing they could do to save him.

“Warren was always so happy with a cheeky smile on his face, even if he was getting told off – a real character. His siblings have all been coping in different ways, it comes up at random times. Seven-year-old Cameron asked me the other day why Warren didn’t come back out to play with him on the trampoline, when he’d promised he would.

“There has never been enough awareness of asthma, I want everyone to know how serious asthma is and for no-one else to go through what we have. I know Warren would be really happy if his story could help others.”

The comments come as Asthma and Lung UK called for more to be done to prevent asthma deaths including: the introduction of national targets; dedicated funding to ensure health services can deliver basic care and investment in technology to help people manage their condition.

Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy and external affairs for Asthma and Lung UK, said: “It’s scandalous that 10 years on from the report’s recommendations to improve asthma care, four people are still dying needlessly from the condition every day.

“Asthma care is in crisis. People are not getting the care they need and deserve. As a result the UK continues to have one of the worst asthma death rates in Europe.

“We don’t want to be saying the same thing in another 10 years; this is a problem we know how to fix.

“With better care and support, people with asthma could manage their condition well and avoid life-threatening asthma attacks, while investment in research and innovation to develop technology to help people self-manage their asthma, could also be transformative like it has for conditions like diabetes.

“Not only will these changes save lives and improve people’s health and quality of life, it will also reduce the impact of poorly controlled asthma on health services and help the NHS.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working to improve services for people with chronic conditions such as asthma so they can live longer, healthier lives.

“The NHS has established a groundbreaking lung health checks programme which will detect and treat more lung conditions and has set up 13 dedicated clinical networks to improve lung services across the country.

“We’re also looking into chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma, as part of our forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy, which will allow us to ensure care is better centred around the patient.”