HEALTH campaigner Russ McLean said asthma patients should be more ‘proactive’ in getting help to deal with the condition.

His comments came as a new report into asthma deaths in the UK revealed thousands of people may be dying unnecessarily because of ‘complacency’ about the condition among patients and medical staff.

Although deaths linked to the condition have been falling, there were still 1,242 in 2012, meaning the UK has some of the highest mortality rates in Europe, according to the National Review of Asthma Deaths.

The report calls for better monitoring and improved education for doctors, nurses, patients and carers.

Mr McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “I think NHS services are quite good for asthma patients in East Lancashire, but the most worrying thing is the feeling that asthma isn’t really a dangerous illness.

“If you aren’t being called in for a review of your medication, or if you’re having to use you’re inhaler three or four times a week, then things aren’t right and it’s time to see your GP. I think we’ve got the infra-structure in place to get the patients in, but whether they are taking those offers up is another matter. I think patients need to be more proactive about managing the condition.”

Earlier this year the Lancashire Telegraph reported that Blackburn with Darwen had the second highest hospital admission rate for asthma attacks among children in England in 2012/13. The NHS authority which covers Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale, had the sixth worst rate.

Health chiefs pointed to the high levels of deprivation across East Lancashire, with cold and damp houses thought to be contributing to the problem.

Prof Mike Morgan, NHS England's national clinical director for respiratory services, said of the national report: “Every patient should have a care plan which should be regularly reviewed and patients should be supported to manage their asthma, including effective inhaler technique."

Asthma is caused by inflammation of the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. Various triggers can irritate the lungs, such as dust, animal fur, pollen, tobacco smoke and cold air, prompting the airways to narrow and the muscles around them to tighten, causing a cough, wheezing, or breathlessness.