Asthma Outcomes — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:19 am on 7th December 2021.

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Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health) 10:19 am, 7th December 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, in what is an extremely important and timely debate. I thank Jim Shannon for securing it, and I know that the issue is very close to his heart. He exerts such energy, enthusiasm and dedication through his work with the all-party parliamentary group on respiratory health, and the issue also has a very personal resonance for him, as we heard, given that his son has been diagnosed with asthma. The hon. Gentleman has first-hand experience of asthma’s impact on a young person and a family, of the concerns that it brings to the whole family and of the need for improved, ongoing care for everybody affected.

The hon. Gentleman set the scene extremely well, and in a detailed manner. He raised with the Minister the issues that clearly need to be addressed, and ensured that we are all aware that we should be speaking more about asthma and its implications, given its impact on so many people across the United Kingdom. He gave some startling figures, including that three people a day die as a result of this treatable disease. We should be doing far more to ensure that those deaths do not happen and that the interventions required are delivered in a timely manner. Those who need additional support must get access to the trained nurse clinicians and the annual reviews that they so desperately need.

I also thank Jane Hunt. I do not believe I have had the pleasure of speaking to her personally in this place yet, because of our absence during the covid pandemic. I look forward to speaking with her about her particular interest in health. I say that as a clinician, as the chair of the all-party parliamentary health group and as someone with an interest in taking these issues forward. She raised such important matters, including the move towards climate change-friendly, net-zero alternatives. She said that the move must be staged so as not to be too quick for the people who desperately need the medication to catch up, and that it must be done in a very pragmatic way so that it does not impact on those UK organisations that she spoke about, including in her own constituency. Those organisations are working so hard to ensure that science is at the forefront and that, while we achieve net zero, we put patient health at the forefront of all of the decisions that are made in this context. She spoke extremely well on that matter.

Liz Twist always speaks eloquently on health-related matters, and I very much welcomed her person-centred approach to the debate. She detailed the impact of asthma on people’s lives, and contributed that first-hand information to the debate. Asthma has a devastating impact on individuals, and people must have access to the biologic treatments that she described. Where there is innovation and excellence in our NHS, it must be available to everybody who needs treatment. That is why, importantly, she told the Minister that individuals must have access to community hubs for diagnosis, linked with early prevention and prescribing. There should be no postcode lottery; no matter where people live in the United Kingdom, they should have access to the treatment that they so desperately need.

While I think about hon. Members’ contributions, I will also briefly mention prescription charges, which the hon. Member for Loughborough also discussed and are extremely important. The Scottish Government abolished prescription charges in 2011, but in England the current charge is £9.35 per item. Since 2011, those suffering from asthma in Scotland have had access to free inhalers, meaning that no person is ever left without an inhaler because of cost. A recent survey conducted by Asthma UK found that three quarters of people living with asthma in England had struggled to pay for their prescriptions and that individuals had often turned to skipping doses of their inhaler to cut costs—again, the impact of poverty and deprivation causing detriment to those who have asthma.