12/01/2012 01:17 GMT

Asthmatic Children Refused Inhalers At School Due To 'Needless Red Tape'

Children with asthma are prevented from getting access to inhalers in schools due to "needless red tape", despite almost two-thirds of sufferers having attacks at school, a charity has warned.

The survey conducted by Asthma UK of more than 200 children found 55% do not always know where their inhaler is or how to get it, while one in five children said they find it "quite difficult" or "very difficult" to access their inhaler at school.

The charity 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, the report continued to warn.

The charity is calling for a change in the rules to allow schools to keep inhalers in their first aid kits.

Some 1.1m children in the UK have asthma and more than 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.

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."

The parents of 11-year-old Samuel demanded lessons needed to be learned from their son's tragic - and preventable - death. Despite calling for better for training for teachers about asthma and keeping inhalers on hand at schools, the red tape restrictions means this simple step is still yet to be enforced.

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 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.

"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," Humphreys added.

"This puts children at risk."

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."