PEOPLE living in Scotland's most deprived neighbourhoods account for one in three emergency hospitals due to asthma, according to new research.
Factors such as air pollution, exposure to tobacco smoke, and breathing difficulties exacerbated by mould or damp in poor quality housing have been blamed, although analysis by charity Asthma & Lung UK Scotland found that patients on lower incomes were also less likely to be receiving adequate health checks.
The charity compared the incidence of life-threatening asthma attacks based on patients' deprivation status.
It found that people living in the poorest fifth of postcodes had made up almost 33 per cent of asthma-related emergency hospital admissions over the past five years, compared to 11.6% of patients in the most affluent areas.
The charity also found that only 25% of patients in Scotland are receiving basic asthma care, compared to 30% for the UK as a whole.
It is the first time since it began collecting this data in 2013 that the figure for Scotland has been worse than the UK average.
In 2017, the figure for Scotland was 43% but it has been declining since then.
The basic health checks for asthma patients are supposed to include an annual asthma review, an inhaler technique check, and a written asthma plan.
Asthma & Lung UK Scotland said the findings were "especially concerning" when it is known that more than 60% of asthma deaths could be prevented with better routine care.
The charity also found that, for lower income groups, the quality of the asthma reviews they received was poorer.
For example, patients were less likely to have been asked about their symptoms or have their inhaler usage assessed, and their adherence to their preventer inhaler – essential to stop symptoms occurring - was not discussed as often.
Research has previously established clear links between poverty and common asthma triggers, including higher exposure to air pollution, tobacco smoke, domestic damp and mould, and potentially hazardous working environments in more deprived areas.
The charity is calling for urgent action to tackle health inequalities for asthma sufferers amid fears that the gulf will be made even worse as Scots begin to feel the squeeze of the cost of living crisis.
Joseph Carter, head of Asthma and Lung UK Scotland, said: “It is shocking that people with asthma in Scotland are fighting for breath, having life-threatening asthma attacks and repeated trips to hospital because of where they live.
"Everyone should be entitled to basic asthma care such as a yearly check-up and help using their inhaler so they can manage their condition.
“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 driving down smoking rates and reducing air pollution and targeted awareness campaigns for the communities that need it most."
The findings will be discussed with MSPs at the Scottish Parliament today when Asthma and Lung UK Scotland hosts an event led by Mr Carter and the charity's UK chief executive, Sarah Woolnough, along with guests clinician, Dr Tom Fardon and asthma patient, Linda McLeod.
Mr Carter added: "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.
"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.”