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‘Worrying lack of progress’ in asthma care

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Checking a patients inhaler technique is just one part of basic asthma care

Only one-third of people with asthma in the UK are receiving the basic level of care, according to a new survey by the charity Asthma UK.

This year’s survey, which spoke to 7611 people from across the four nations, found that only 35% of people with asthma received the most basic level of care. The findings show ‘that very little has changed in the past 12 months’, following a similar report last year.

‘Since last year’s report, around 1200 people tragically died from asthma in the UK, and around 70,000 will have experienced the upset, pain and stress of an emergency visit to hospital. And the same happened the year before that, and the year before that. This can’t carry on,’ said Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK.

Current national guidelines define ‘basic care’ as the provision of: An annual asthma review; an asthma action plan; and an inhaler technique check.

Only 35% of UK asthma sufferers are getting this basic coverage, and the consequences can be fatal. Asthma UK reports that 1200 people died from asthma attacks in the UK last year, with measures to reduce the figure displaying a ‘worrying lack of progress’.

There are 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma, which includes over 1 million children. Based on the data from Asthma UK, this means that more than 3.5 million people are receiving inadequate asthma care.

This lack of appropriate care also has a regional character to it, with areas such as Wales (26.1%) and London (27.6%) providing basic care to far fewer people compared to Northern Ireland (48.25) and Scotland (43.2%).

‘There's a postcode lottery with millions not getting basic asthma treatment, despite the fact it is proven to save lives,’ said Dr Samantha Walker, from Asthma UK.

‘It shouldn't matter where you live - people with asthma should get a written plan to help them manage their asthma, a yearly review to check their medicine is working and help to ensure they are taking it properly.’

The survey also showed a generational divide: ‘this inequality is not just geographical but generational’. People aged 18-29 received the lowest levels of basic care (25%), compared to those aged 70-79 (42%).

‘This inequality of care is particularly frustrating, because it shows that a better (if not perfect) standard of care is possible,’ said the report.

A spokesperson for the NHS said: ‘GPs are best placed to provide appropriate asthma treatment and we are rolling out support to help them improve the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, including the development of local hubs that will make testing more effective.’

Kay Boycott argued that an upcoming asthma audit and new guidelines created an opportunity to improve the current situation, but that ‘this will only happen with pressure and action at all levels’.

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