Asthma Outcomes — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 7th December 2021.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 9:30 am, 7th December 2021

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered asthma outcomes.

Thank you very much for calling me to speak, Mr McCabe. This is an issue that is close to my heart and close to the hearts of others here. There are few families in the whole of the United Kingdom for whom asthma has not been a key issue; it has been an issue for my own, and I want to speak about that as well. I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to have the debate. I am chair of the all-party parliamentary group for respiratory health, which recently completed an inquiry into this issue, so I am delighted to be able to raise the issue of improving asthma outcomes in the UK. I very much look forward to the response from the Minister. I am also very pleased to see the shadow Minister, Feryal Clark, in her place, and I wish her well in her new role.

What does asthma mean to me? My second son, Ian, had asthma. He was born with very severe psoriasis, which meant that we had to apply cream to him three times a day when he was a wee boy. The doctor told us that the psoriasis would eventually go away, but that it would be replaced by asthma. I am not sure of the medical connection—I am not medically qualified to understand it—and I know only what the doctor told me and my wife. Ian has had asthma all his life now—he is 30 years old—and has used salbutamol, the wee blue inhaler, which is always there. It is very clear, from our family’s experience, that those salbutamol inhalers are really important. They are important for Ian. Asthma did not stop him participating in sports, but it meant that he always had to have that inhaler close by, should he at any time feel shortness of breath or need a wee helper.

In Ian’s class at school, there were many others who had asthma issues. As an elected representative, whenever I help constituents with benefit forms, whether for attendance allowance, personal independence payments or whatever, I always ask them about their medical circumstances. More often than not, asthma features among the ailments that they confirm they have—even for those of a different generation. They have often had it for many years. Asthma is an incredibly important issue.

I am pleased to see the Minister in his place. I always like dealing with him, because I always find his answers helpful. He has a passion for the health issues that we bring to his attention, and he always tries to give, and indeed succeeds in giving, the answers that one wishes to receive. Today, we are going to ask a number of questions, and we very much look forward to his responses. I am pleased to see hon. Members in their places. I had hoped that more Members would be able to attend, but I understand that last night was a late night for Members and that there are other pressing matters today.

I have always had a particular interest in respiratory health. This debate has arisen as a consequence of the APPG’s report, which we published last year: “Improving asthma outcomes in the UK”. We looked at the UK mainland, but we also had contributions from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Obviously, I bring the Northern Ireland perspective to any debate, wherever it may be about, and bring in Strangford too. I am my party’s health spokesperson in this place, and I work closely with my colleagues back home in the Northern Ireland Assembly, particularly with Pam Cameron, my party colleague. She and I work on many things together, including this topic.

Last year, the APPG produced a report investigating the reasons behind the UK’s poor asthma outcomes. We were pleased, honoured and humbled that recognised experts in fields relating to asthma responded to our invitation to take part. The experts ranged from clinical experts from primary, secondary and tertiary care to patient advocacy groups, national asthma champions and patients.

The inquiry was incredibly helpful and detailed. I thank Hugh McKinney of the APPG secretariat and his team for bringing together all the people who wanted to contribute. As a result of the inquiry and the report, many countries in the world now look towards us to learn about how we deal with asthma. They want to learn something from us here in the United Kingdom, and perhaps do things that wee bit better.