Poor care 'puts people at risk of serious asthma attacks', warns Asthma UK, as new report shows one in five are not shown how to use their inhaler.
A new report by leading charity Asthma UK has suggested that 86% of people with asthma may not be getting the care they need. This could mean that as many as 4.6 million people in the UK are missing out on basic elements of care that could prevent them from having a serious asthma attack.
Nearly 6,000 people took an online test this summer to check the quality of their asthma care www.asthma.org.uk/compareyourcare. Shockingly, a report based on these findings reveals that only 14% of these people are receiving care that fully meets basic national standards.
According to guidelines, everyone with asthma should receive a written asthma action plan from their doctor or asthma nurse, so they know what steps to take when their symptoms get worse. Those without an action plan are four times more likely to end up in hospital with an asthma attack.
But according to Asthma UK's Compare Your Care report, only one in four people with asthma said they had been given an action plan. One in five asthma patients said that nobody had made sure they knew how to use their inhalers, and a quarter said they had not had a review of their asthma with their doctor or asthma nurse in the last year.
Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said: "Poor care puts people at increased risk of serious asthma attacks. Standards are in place to give doctors and nurses the information and advice they need to prevent asthma attacks and save lives, but worryingly, people with asthma have told us that key aspects of these are being routinely neglected. The numbers of people dying from asthma and being hospitalised needlessly in this country are unacceptably high so we urgently need to see a commitment from the NHS to improving basic asthma care."
Every day in the UK, 180 people are hospitalised because of their asthma. Three of these people will die. But three-quarters of hospital admissions could be prevented with the right care and management.
Hollie Shirley from Aberdeen received such poor care from her GP that she ended up in hospital and had to take a week off work to recover. She says: "I wasn't feeling well so I phoned the GP surgery to ask for an emergency appointment but I couldn't get one. I waited three hours for a doctor to phone me back, at which point he said, 'You don't sound ill, there's no point in you coming in'. In the days that followed I still wasn't feeling right but still couldn't get an appointment. By the weekend, my chest was really bad and I was struggling to breathe - I felt like I'd done a 1,000 metre sprint and been given a straw to breathe through. Fortunately my neighbour found me while I was having the attack and drove me to hospital."
And when it comes to the basics, Hollie's asthma care falls short on all levels. The 26-year-old says: "My last asthma review was two years ago. When I asked the GP if reviews were a common thing he replied, 'No, they're only really for children who have just been diagnosed'. I don't have an action plan and I have never been shown inhaler technique - I think doctors assume that because I've had asthma all my life I know how to use them."