Author: Dr Andrew Whittamore, Asthma UK's in-house GP
Date: 23 January 2018
What basic asthma care is and why it’s important
Asthma UK’s Annual Asthma Survey results are out and, as a GP, I’m saddened that there’s little improvement from previous surveys. Nearly two in three people with asthma aren’t getting basic levels of care, meaning that they’re at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack. We’ve also found that care varies around the UK: in London, almost three-quarters of people with asthma aren’t getting the basics.
What exactly is basic asthma care?
This is what you should expect from your GP or asthma nurse:
At your annual asthma review, your GP or asthma nurse will carry out tests to check your asthma’s as well managed as possible and adjust your medicine to suit your needs – which may sometimes mean adjusting the dose of medicine in your preventer inhaler.
If you use a written asthma action plan, you’re four times less likely to end up in hospital with your asthma. Filled in with your GP or asthma nurse, your plan will tell you what medicine to take and when, list what symptoms show your asthma might be getting worse and how to spot the signs of an asthma attack.
An inhaler technique check helps ensure you’re using your inhalers properly, so the correct amount of medicine gets into your lungs, where it can help to reduce your asthma symptoms.
Why it matters
There’s good evidence to show these three elements of basic asthma care can help keep you out of hospital. They can also help improve your quality of life. Lots of people with asthma put up with symptoms, such as getting breathless easily and waking at night with a cough. If you’re struggling with symptoms like this, imagine how much more you could enjoy life if you didn’t have them. You’d sleep better, wouldn’t need time off work or study and could have a full social life.
How you can help yourself
Better care is a joint effort. As well as calling on healthcare professionals to ensure they’re giving people with asthma the care they need – Asthma UK is encouraging people with asthma to take more control of their care too.
There’s lots you can do – meaning you’ll cut your risk of needing emergency treatment AND reduce any niggling symptoms affecting your life.
Here are the simple steps you can take to look after yourself:
- Book your asthma review once a year.
- Prepare in advance for your review, so you get the most from it.
- If you don’t have one already, ask your GP or asthma nurse to fill in a written asthma action plan for you – you could print one out from our website and take it along to your next review.
- And make sure you follow your written asthma action plan. Store it somewhere you’ll remember, for example keep a photo of it on your smartphone.
- Take your medicine as prescribed by your GP or asthma nurse.
- If you have any questions or concerns about your medicine, talk to your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist – your pharmacist may also be qualified to review your inhaler technique.
- Know the signs your asthma’s getting worse, and see your GP immediately if you notice any of them.
- If you have emergency or unplanned care at a hospital or out-of-hours centre, see your GP for a follow-up appointment within two days. It’s vital to help you avoid another asthma attack and yet, our Annual Asthma Survey showed that two in three people who had emergency care in the last 12 months had no GP follow-up.
Dr Andy Whittamore is a GP based in Hampshire, specialising in respiratory care. He’s Asthma UK’s in-house GP, where he works on building relationships with key opinion leaders in respiratory care, identifying emerging issues in asthma, and providing the charity with clinical expertise.