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New Rules Needed To Help Schools Deal With Asthma

Charity Issues Warning On Access To Inhalers


Lawyers representing the family of a schoolboy who died following a catalogue of errors after he suffered a severe asthma attack at school have commented on the news that access to inhalers is being restricted in schools.

Charity Asthma UK has warned that children with asthma are struggling to get access to inhalers in schools due to "needless red tape". They said schools are prevented from keeping a spare blue reliever inhaler on their premises because they are prescription-only medicines.

The charity is calling for a change in the rules to allow schools to keep inhalers in their first aid kits. Figures released by the charity show state that 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma and just over 30,000 are admitted to hospital with the condition every year. A small survey of more than 200 youngsters for Asthma UK found almost two-thirds have had an asthma attack at school.

Eleven-year-old Sam Linton, from Stockport, died in 2007 after staff at the town’s Offerton High School alone in a corridor with only his inhaler, instead of calling an ambulance to take him to hospital.

Last year an inquest into Sam’s death recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, significantly contributed to by neglect on both an individual and systemic level. It was highlighted during the hearing that there was a lack of training at the school about the nature of asthma and how to deal with an asthma attack.

Jonathan Betts, a Partner in the Serious Injury team at law firm Irwin Mitchell represents the Linton family, he said: “This was a deeply tragic incident in which a loving family lost their son under extremely distressing circumstances. The fact that nobody called an ambulance during the hours that Sam was suffering is truly astounding and very worrying for all parents.

"The past few years have been extremely distressing for Sam’s family and it has taken far too long for them to get any justice for their son.

“Throughout everything they have been determined to ensure Sam’s tragic case is a lesson not only for Offerton High School, but for every school across the country. For this to happen it is vital that the School shares the details of the council’s internal review, so that the head teacher and governors of every school are aware of the failings in Sam’s case. We are determined to make sure the key outcomes are shared.

“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 5-10 minutes. If easing the restrictions on schools stocking spare inhalers helps prevent further tragedy in future then we wholeheartedly support it.”

Sam’s parents, Paul and Karen Linton, added: “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 vein.”