Two thirds of people with asthma still not receiving basic care, finds Asthma UK report

Two thirds of people are still not receiving the basic care they need to manage their asthma, with wide variations in the level of care reported between different parts of the UK, according to a new report by Asthma UK.

More than a quarter (27%) of people miss a week or more of work or education a year because of their asthma, with almost two thirds of those who pay for their prescriptions saying this has an impact on their ability to pay for other activities.

More worryingly, the Annual Asthma Survey 2016 Report found that seven out of ten people with asthma who end up in hospital are not given a follow-up appointment with a GP or nurse – an essential step in preventing many people from being readmitted to hospital.

Of the 4,650 people who responded to the survey from across the UK, 42% were given an asthma action plan in 2016 – up from 36% last year and 24% in 2013. While this positive trend is welcome, the large number of people who still don’t have a written asthma action plan is concerning. Not having one makes you four times more likely to end up in hospital with an asthma attack.

Northern Ireland was the highest performing part of the UK for the provision of basic asthma care, with nearly half (48%) of NI respondents saying they had received adequate care. Only 28% of people with asthma in London said they received basic asthma care, the lowest in the UK.

Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead and in-house GP, said: “Good asthma care means having a thorough asthma review, being on the right medication, knowing how to use your inhaler correctly and having a written asthma action plan. It is worrying that basic care is not being delivered on a consistent basis, because every person with asthma should be receiving this care.”

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK: “With the 2014 National Review of Asthma Deaths reporting 2 out of 3 asthma deaths are preventable with good basic care, it is hugely disappointing that the latest Asthma UK care survey shows little has changed since that damning report. It is clear that expecting old ways to tackle long-standing problems won't work. We must take a bold, new approach and take advantage of new asthma digital health solutions to transform the way asthma care is delivered and support self-management.  Digital asthma action plans, smart inhalers, and automated GP alerts are just some of the ways asthma care could be brought up to date and help reduce the risk of potentially fatal asthma attacks.”

Case study: Nichola Duane

“I was first diagnosed with asthma just after my 20th birthday following a chest infection. I spent three weeks in hospital and thought the asthma would go away once my infection cleared up. No one explained how serious my asthma diagnosis was. They just prescribed me a combination inhaler and sent me on my way.

“It was only after being admitted to hospital for a second time that I was diagnosed with severe asthma. I was then prescribed a separate reliever and preventer inhaler, and was started on Xolair injections (often prescribed to people with severe allergic asthma).”

“Even though I was glad to have a diagnosis, the pattern of being in and out of hospital continued for four years. I had to leave my job as a nursery teacher, which I loved and give up sport. My social life also suffered.”

“Life began to change for the better when I was referred to the severe asthma service at Wythenshawe Hospital. Here I was diagnosed with severe eosinophilic asthma (a type of asthma where there’s a high level of white blood cells called eosinophils in the airways) and started on a different treatment.

“I’m now on an effective combination of medicines. This has been life-changing as my asthma is so much better controlled and I’ve been able to get back into employment.”

“Unfortunately I have experienced side effects as a result of taking steroids for so long as part of my treatment. The most obvious being weight gain. But although it bothered me at first, I’ve come to realise that my asthma medicines are keeping me out of hospital so it’s worth it.”

“Since I started treatment at Wythenshawe I’ve had very few asthma attacks and hospital stays have been shorter.

“Nevertheless asthma does have a huge impact on daily life, and I still find everyday tasks a struggle. But it hasn’t stopped me studying for a degree and a Masters degree and I’ve also started coaching netball teams. Planning is key – I always make sure I’m feeling well with my asthma and keep my reliever inhaler with me.”

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact the Asthma UK media team on mediaoffice@asthma.org.uk, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

The Asthma UK Data Portal is a new online tool for journalists to access the latest figures and trends in asthma outcomes across the UK. Information on asthma facts and statistics can also be found on our website.

About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • 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