The charity organization Asthma UK has revealed some disturbing results from a survey conducted on asthmatics across the UK.
According to the charity, asthma patients are forced to pay “unfair” prescription charges to the point that 75 percent of those surveys say they struggle to afford them. As a result, many skips taking their medications and some even end up needing emergency care. Sadly, at least one person has died because of this.
Holly Worboys was 19 years old and suffered from asthma. According to her mother, Cathy Worboys, 49, from Hertfordshire, Holly worked as a waitress and didn’t earn much. This forced her to skip her medications and, as a result, died when she suffered an asthma attack.
Asthma UK insists that the prescription charges are “outdated.”
Dr. Samantha Walker, director of research and policy, said: “It is unfair that millions of people with asthma are getting a raw deal, paying unfair costs for their medicine just to stay well. No-one should have to pay to breathe.
“Asthma is a serious condition that kills three people every day in the UK and the best way for people to stay well is to take their life-saving medication, often for their entire life.
“When people are struggling financially they may feel they simply cannot afford to pay for the medication.
“By not taking it, they are at risk of being hospitalized or even dying from an asthma attack.”
Of 9,000 asthmatics that were surveyed, nearly 7,500 paid for their prescription and 76 percent of those said they sometimes or always had difficulty paying for their medication.
Around 57 percent reported sparingly using their medicines or skipping them altogether because of the cost.
Of that group, roughly 24 percent suffered an asthma attack after taking lower doses of their medicine while 13 percent needed emergency treatment at some point.
Asthma UK is appealing Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock through an online petition to include asthma in the prescription charges exemption list so that sufferers “no longer have to pay to breathe.”
Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In England, people with long-term illnesses such as diabetes and epilepsy qualify for a medical exemption certificate that exempts them from the charges.
The sobering case of Holly Worboys only drives home the point. She died in January 2016 following a severe asthma attack that her mother believes could have been prevented.
She said: “As Holly only had one dose of medicine left in her inhaler, even as she struggled to breathe she didn’t want to take it, saying she’d save it for when she really needed.
“The horrific irony is that was the moment Holly really did need it.
“Within minutes of having her asthma attack, Holly fell unconscious and died before she got to the hospital.”
According to Asthma UK, the volume of hospital admissions could be reduced if charges are dropped in England.
Deaths from asthma have increased by 20 percent in the last five years and are actually one of the worst in Europe, says an analysis that the charity published last year.
Last month, they petitioned the NHS to make more efforts to offer asthmatics follow-up appointments after they receive emergency care.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) recommend that asthma patients who receive emergency care should see their GP in the following two days. But according to Asthma UK, of those asthmatics who had received emergency care, nearly two-thirds of them failed to follow the recommendations.
This is of concern as follow-up care could prove crucial in preventing further attacks and reduce the chances of hospitalization.
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