Asthmatic children's lives put at risk by 'red tape' as schools banned from keeping spare inhaler
1.1million children have asthma and 30,000 are admitted to hospital with condition each year
Prescription only: Schools cannot have a spare asthma inhaler under current legislation
Children with asthma are being prevented from getting access to inhalers in schools due to 'needless red tape', a leading charity has warned.
Asthma UK said schools are prevented from keeping a spare blue reliever inhaler on their premises because they are prescription-only medicines.
But this puts children's lives at risk when they have forgotten to bring their own inhaler to school or have run out, it said.
The charity is calling for a change in the rules to allow schools to keep inhalers in their first aid kits.
Some 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma and just over 30,000 are admitted to hospital with the condition every year.
There are around 1,100 asthma deaths every year among both adults and children.
A small survey of more than 200 youngsters for Asthma UK found almost two-thirds have had an asthma attack at school.
One in five children said they find it 'quite difficult' or 'very difficult' to access their inhaler at school and 55% do not always know where it is or how to get it.
Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK, said: 'These medicines are very safe but going without them can be very dangerous, so it is crucial that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) changes the rules and allows schools to keep a spare inhaler as a last resort.
'The majority of children know to find a teacher if they don't have their own inhaler when having an asthma attack at school but the reality is that there is very little that staff can legally do to help in this situation.
This puts children at risk.'
The charity says the MHRA could provide an exemption to the regulations to allow schools across the UK to supply the inhalers.
Similar exemptions already exist for organisations such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the armed forces.
Stephen McPartland, Conservative MP for Stevenage, said: 'The tragic case of Stockport schoolboy Samuel Linton, who died in 2007 following an asthma attack at school, shows that there is a real lack of understanding and awareness as to what to do if a child has an asthma attack whilst they are at school.
'This is why this campaign is so crucial, not only in terms of giving teachers access to an emergency inhaler but also empowering them with understanding, awareness and support in how to deal with asthma at school.'
Dr Kevin Gruffydd Jones, from the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS-UK), said: 'Asthma attacks are serious and children need access to inhalers as soon as possible.
'Introducing a spare inhaler for emergencies could prevent a serious asthma attack by getting prompt help for a child when it's needed.'
A spokesman for the MHRA said: 'In the interests of patient safety, asthma inhalers should only be supplied on prescription to the individual named, for his or her own use.
'The MHRA has no plans to change the current legal position.
'Exemptions exist because of the nature of the conditions in which these organisations operate. For example, the conditions in which military operations are undertaken will tend to mean that access to medical care or advice may not be readily available.'
Sam Linton's parents, Paul and Karen Linton, said: 'Sam was a wonderful son and his loss has been devastating. The past few years have been horrendous, especially in the knowledge that things could, and should, have been different.
'The thought that his death may have been prevented with better training and clearer policies is too much to bear.
'Our family has suffered enormously since Sam's death and we know our lives will never be the same again.
'We only hope that serious lessons have been learned by all schools so that no one else has to suffer what we have been through so that our son's death is not in vain.'
Jonathan Betts, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represents the Linton family, said: 'If left untreated, asthma attacks can have devastating consequences.
'A simple national policy would help, which instructs teachers to call an ambulance if a child suffers an asthma attack and is not showing signs of improvement within five to 10 minutes.
'If easing the restrictions on schools stocking spare inhalers helps prevent further tragedy in future then we wholeheartedly support it.'