How good is care for people with asthma?
Understanding of the quality of asthma care delivered through GP practices and other primary care providers is key to identifying ways in which it can be improved. In 2015, Asthma UK influenced the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership to agree to commission the first ever national clinical audit for asthma. This would give us an unprecedented picture of how people with asthma are treated across England and Wales. We are delighted that the asthma audit is happening because, as we know from the National Review of Asthma Deaths, basic care can save lives. So we are keen to ensure that any areas for improvement are acted upon, to deliver consistently high quality care for adults and children with asthma.
Asthma care – greater understanding to transform care
At the moment, a lack of data stops us from clearly understanding where asthma care is poor and where improvements need to made. For a condition affecting 5.4 million people in the UK it is imperative that asthma care is audited on a national scale to drive improvements. Asthma UK campaigned for a national audit of asthma care for three reasons:
- Evidence that asthma care is variable across the country
The Asthma UK annual care survey tells us that the quality of asthma care is highly variable across the UK. However, the data cannot be used to identify improvement needs in specific geographical areas or practices.
- Evidence that basic care can save lives
A National Clinical Audit for asthma has the potential to stop people needlessly from asthma, improve quality of life for people with asthma and significantly reduce costs for the NHS.
- Parity with other health conditions
The Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) already undertakes audits on the quality of care in many conditions. Following collection and analysis of data, reports are produced for a range of stakeholders to use to drive changes and improve the quality of services and ultimately health outcomes.
The National Audit of Asthma Care is finally happening
Asthma UK worked with colleagues at Royal Colleges and other organisations to successfully call for a national audit of asthma care in England and Wales. The procurement process is currently underway and we expect the appointed auditors to begin work in late 2016, completing their work in Spring 2018.
There are, however, challenges to undertaking an audit of primary care, e.g. GP practices, as there is no simple way to extract data so that it can be compared at on a national scale. Since the majority of asthma care takes place in GP practices, it is imperative that these practical challenges are overcome, so that the audit can drive improvements for majority of people with asthma.
What is Asthma UK doing about it?
Asthma UK was invited by HQIP to be part of a small cross-sector team to discuss what needs to be measured by the audit, and how. As part of this group going forward, we will:
- Monitor the procurement process and champion the need for solutions to extract data from primary care hold the appointed auditors to account for their delivery of a high-quality audit
- We will also seek to ensure the improvements identified in the audit are put into practice to help people with asthma.