Asthma’s postcode lottery: ‘We all have a right to breathe’

Asthma attack: conditions in Croydon are worse than anywhere else in London for asthmatics

Croydon is the worst place in London to have asthma, analysis from charity Asthma UK has shown.

Yet Bromley, the borough next door to Croydon, is rated as the best place in the capital for asthmatics.

The charity’s findings are a shocking indictment of poverty, poor living conditions and wretchedly polluted air quality in Croydon, where people with asthma are more likely to be hospitalised or die from an asthma attack than anywhere else in London.

Asthma UK’s 2018 report On The Edge: How inequality affects people with asthma, using official government data from the Office of National Statistics, found that people in the poorest areas in England are more likely to be exposed to worse air pollution and higher smoking rates, have challenges accessing care, a lower awareness of asthma management and have poor housing conditions.

Inside Croydon reported last week how the already long-suffering residents in council blocks on Regina Road in South Norwood have well-founded concerns about the health of their children and themselves because of the damp and mould in their homes, and soaring energy bills to pay because of structural failings of the buildings.

Croydon is in the most deprived half of CCGs in England and has the highest hospital admission rate for asthma in the capital, with 720 people hospitalised for the condition in the years before the report was published. It also had the third-highest number of asthma deaths in the capital.

Yet people with asthma in neighbouring Bromley are the least likely to need to go to hospital for their asthma in London, and the number of asthma deaths in nine years is half that of Croydon – 64 compared to 34 deaths.

Postcode lottery: the disparity between neighbouring boroughs Croydon and Bromley, as shown in Asthma UK’s report, based on ONS data

Compared to the rest of England, London has the worst rates of people receiving basic asthma care with 72 per cent of people with asthma in the capital not receiving the care they need. Everyone with asthma is entitled to basic asthma care which includes having a written asthma action plan, having their inhaler technique checked and an annual asthma review with a GP or asthma nurse.

Croydon resident Karen Briscoe told Asthma UK that air pollution, poor housing and a lack of access to basic asthma care played a part in her being rushed to hospital with asthma attacks. She has also spent several hours in her GP surgery room waiting for an emergency appointment and struggling to breathe.

“Where I live has definitely made my asthma worse. My kitchen has damp in it and I overlook a main road. The damp and the toxic air from the road trigger my asthma.

Asthma UK’s Dr Samantha Walker: ‘truly shocking’

“I’ve been in and out of hospital with my asthma but I haven’t had the care I needed. My GP surgery is always so busy that I can wait up to three weeks for appointment and I’ve never had a yearly asthma review even though I know I should get one.

“It’s very frightening when I’m struggling to breathe and there are times where I think it might get so bad I might die. When you have asthma you should be able to get the care you need and be in an environment that won’t make you ill, no matter where you live.”

Dr Samantha Walker, the director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said, “It is truly shocking that people in deprived areas are not only struggling to make ends meet but if they have asthma they are more likely to end up in hospital or die from an asthma attack.

“We should all have an equal right to breathe. Everyone with asthma should be entitled to live in an area free of dirty air, in decent housing that doesn’t affect their health and get the basic asthma care from healthcare professionals that they are entitled to.

Peter Underwood: says Croydon is in a public health crisis

“Tackling health inequalities is meant to be a priority for healthcare commissioners, including NHS England, and our report highlights the fact that there is still a long way to go before all people with asthma are enabled to manage their condition effectively.”

Croydon Green Party’s Peter Underwood, a long-term campaigner for better air quality in the borough, told Inside Croydon, “We know that thousands of people die early every year from air pollution.

“And it is the people who already face disadvantages and discrimination who suffer worst.

“This is a public health crisis and demands urgent action.

“Croydon is going in the wrong direction with more traffic on our roads and increased pollution from the waste incinerator at Beddington Lane. We have to turn this around.”

Read more: Regina Road residents shiver as they face £2,000 heating bills
Read more: Air pollution in central Croydon reaches ‘dangerous’ levels
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to Asthma’s postcode lottery: ‘We all have a right to breathe’

  1. This report must understate the severity of conditions in parts of Croydon because the worst wards are masked by the data from the most prosperous wards. We are looking at averages here. A ward by ward analysis would be “interesting” and is important.

  2. Lewis White says:

    The ward by ward analysis should show whether the main roads (notably Purley Way) and the incinerator plume are reflected in the local results. With regard to the latter source of pollution, it is maybe too early to detect long term asthma problems as the facility is till fairly new, albeit that the stench of burning plastic is a fact . I wonder if GP’s, faced with a patient who was fine 3 years ago, but is now suffering from poor breathing, have mapped where these people live relative to roads and incinerator.

    One big concern is the number and location of air-monitoring stations. Are there enough, and are they in places where they will detect the nasties?

    • Not a big surprise I used to have a massive improvement in breathing when I worked in Shenzhen Southern China compared to Croydon. Living away from Croydon now I breathe in a way that I just thought I could not do. Poor breathing creeps up on people. It disrupts many aspects of life from physical fitness to sleep.
      When I lived in Central Croydon I cleaned my window ledges every day to rid them of the build up of black dust. I would think that it would not be too hard to set-up a citizens project to monitor air quality as the problem is so visible.

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