For immediate release Tuesday 23 January 2018
An estimated 800,000 people in the UK with asthma could be getting poor care putting them at an increased risk of a life-threatening asthma attack*, according to a new report launched by Asthma UK today.
Falling Through the Gaps: Why more people need basic asthma care, which includes a survey of more than 7,500 people with asthma in the UK, has revealed:
- An estimated 3.5 million Brits with asthma (65%) are not getting the basic care they are entitled to and there has been little improvement since last year*
- 1 in 6 people (15%) with asthma – an estimated 800,000 – said they received poor care*
- There is a postcode lottery of care, with people in Wales receiving the worst asthma care in the UK
- Asthma UK says healthcare professionals, patients and local health areas all have a part to play in ensuring people with asthma get the basic care they are entitled to
Three people die from asthma every day*** and, according to the National Review of Asthma Deaths, two thirds of these deaths could have been prevented with basic asthma care.****
Every asthma patient should get basic care, which according to national guidelines, includes having an asthma review every year, being on the right medication, being taught the correct inhaler technique and having a written asthma action plan which explains how to manage asthma on a day-to-day basis.
Asthma UK’s findings reveal that when it comes to receiving basic asthma care, there is a postcode lottery. In Wales, just 26% of people with asthma received basic care compared to the UK figure of 35%.
The charity’s report illustrates the strain on the NHS and the knock-on effect on people with asthma. As well as patients reporting a lack of care or poor routine care, 1 in 10 who had had emergency care (11%) said they felt it was poor.
Asthma patients’ dissatisfaction with care was also reflected in the charity’s telephone helpline figures.
Last year, it received over 350 calls from people with asthma who were unhappy with the information they had been given by their healthcare professional or said they couldn’t access an appointment – an increase from 2016.*****
Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Policy and Research at Asthma UK says:
“We are deeply concerned about this bleak picture of asthma care. There’s a postcode lottery with millions not getting basic asthma treatment, despite the fact it is proven to save lives, and thousands saying the care they did get was poor.
“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.
“Healthcare professionals need to ensure they are giving patients this care and patients should proactively manage their asthma, and attend their appointments to keep asthma attacks at bay.”
Donna Green, 42, from Lurgan, County Armagh is campaigning for better basic care after her 20-year-old son Tiernan, died from an asthma attack last year. She says:
“I didn’t realise how serious asthma was, and I found out in the most devastating way, when my boy died in my arms.
“Tiernan came to my bedroom door, having an asthma attack, gasping for breath. He was pale, his lips had turned blue and he was taking his inhaler but it wasn’t helping. I called an ambulance and was on the phone when he turned to me and said: ‘Mum I’m going to die tonight’. It was the most frightening moment of my life.
“Tiernan collapsed on the floor and stopped breathing and I gave him CPR while my daughter continued talking to the paramedics, but he died before he got to hospital. Losing Tiernan has left a big hole in our lives.
“As a mum who has lost a child to an asthma attack, I don’t want any other parent to go through what we have, which is why I’m campaigning for better basic care. Mums often tell me that doctors are brushing aside their worries about their children’s asthma and they aren’t being given what they need.
“Doctors and nurses need to give asthma patients the care they need. Asthma sufferers also need to help themselves too and make sure they take their asthma seriously, see their asthma nurse and have a proper written asthma action plan.”
Dr Andy Whittamore, is a practising GP and Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead. He says:
“There are many healthcare professionals providing exemplary care for people with asthma under very difficult conditions. As a GP, I understand the pressure the NHS is under but if people with asthma don’t get basic care it could mean they end up in A&E or are at risk of dying from an asthma attack.
“Doctors and nurses need to do basic care well and patients need to attend their appointments. It is also critical that local health areas across the UK invest properly in asthma care to prevent more people dying unnecessarily from asthma attacks.”
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Notes to editors
*Falling Through the Gaps: Why more people need basic asthma careincluded a survey of 7,611 people with asthma across the UK. To estimate that more than 800,000 people in the UK with asthma may be experiencing poor care, we applied the proportion of people in the survey who said they had poor primary care (15.2%) to the UK asthma population which is 5.4 million.
To estimate the number of people with asthma in the UK who are not getting basic care, we applied the proportion of people in the survey who said they did not get basic care (65%) and applied it to the UK asthma population 5.4million which is 3,510,000
Estimate from Health surveys. (Health survey for England, 2001; Scottish Health survey, 2003; Welsh Health survey, 2005/06; Northern Ireland Health and Wellbeing survey, 2005/06. Data accessed via UK Data Service).
** Basic care as outlined in BTS/SIGN and NICE guidelines for asthma. Link to come from Andrew. https://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk/standards-of-care/guidelines/btssign-british-guideline-on-the-management-of-asthma/, https://www.nice.org.uk/Guidance/NG80
*** Death registrations in England and Wales, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/releases/deathregistrationsinenglandandwalessummarytables2016 Office for National Statistics (ONS) – England & Wales, Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA), National Records of Scotland (NRS); Calculated from 4 year average: 2013-2016
**** Royal College of Physicians, Why Asthma Still Kills: The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD), May 2014, https://www.asthma.org.uk/globalassets/campaigns/nrad-full-report.pdf
***** Asthma UK’s helpline received 351 calls from people who were unhappy with the advice they had been given or unable to access a GP (April – September 2017). In 2016, for the same time period, it received 335.
About Asthma UK
Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk