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Alarming Variation In Asthma Hospital Admissions Warns Asthma UK PDF Print Email

Asthma UK has identified huge differences in how many people are rushed to hospital with an asthma attack, depending on where they live. They have launched Compare Your Care campaign to establish why this variation exists and to obtain better care for people with asthma.

Figures show a shocking 19-fold difference in children's emergency asthma admission rates in England, with Liverpool having the highest rates for children, and Tower Hamlets having the lowest. Adult hospital admissions also vary widely, with people in Newham being six times more likely to be hospitalised with their asthma than those in Bromley.

200 people every day are hospitalised in the UK because of their asthma. Three of these people will die. But with the right care three-quarters of hospital admissions could be prevented.

Asthma UK's Compare Your Care campaign aims to build a picture of where people with asthma are receiving good care and where it may be falling behind. People with asthma are being urged to take an online quiz to find out if their care is meeting national standards and, if not, how they can help improve this. Rate your asthma care at www.asthma.org.uk/compareyourcare.

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Policy and Research at Asthma UK, says: "Everyone with asthma deserves good quality care from knowledgeable healthcare professionals, irrespective of where they live. Guidelines are in place to give doctors and nurses the information and advice they need to prevent asthma attacks and save lives. But if these are not put into practice, they're just a piece of paper. The Compare Your Care campaign will tell us for the first time how close we are to meeting the standards - and will help people with asthma to demand better care if theirs is falling short."

According to national 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, However, only 12% actually have one. Those without an action plan are four times more likely to end up in hospital because of their asthma.

People with asthma should also have an asthma review at least once a year, which can help them understand their 'triggers' and make sure their inhaler technique is correct. But worryingly, one in five patients has not been invited by their doctor or nurse to have an annual check-up.

Shannon Batt-Hilliard was a young child when she was diagnosed with asthma. Her mother Glynnis, who also has asthma, was never particularly happy with the care her daughter received in Kent, but it wasn't until the family moved to Northampton when Shannon was five that she realised quite how substandard it had been.

She says: "The difference was unbelievable. Until that point Shannon had never been given an inhaler and we'd received no care or support following her asthma attacks. Once we were in Northampton, she was put on nebulisers, given an inhaler and referred to an asthma nurse. The doctors were far more attentive and were keen to help improve and manage her asthma.

"I too have received brilliant care and fantastic medical support in Northampton - so much so that I don't think I would be alive today if we hadn't moved. For us as a family, relocating was the best thing we could have done health wise and I dread to think what would have happened if we'd stayed in Kent."

Asthma UK wants to see a world where no-one dies from asthma, and over the next five years, aims to halve the number of people who are admitted to hospital for an asthma attack.

If you feel you would like to check your inhaler is working correctly or have any questions about your treatment your local pharmacy is a good place to pop in and have a chat with the pharmacist who can then advise whether to see your doctor or nurse.

About Asthma UK

  • Asthma UK is the UK's leading asthma charity to support people with asthma and fund world-leading research to find better treatments and ultimately a cure.
  • Their goal is to prevent asthma attacks, especially those that result in death and emergency hospitalisation.
  • The Asthma UK Adviceline offers independent advice about asthma for anyone worried or who would like to talk confidentially to a specialist asthma nurse. It is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0800 121 62 44.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk

Background information on asthma

  • 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).
  • Asthma prevalence is thought to have plateaued since the late 1990s, although the UK still has some of the highest rates in Europe and on average three people a day die from asthma.
  • There were 1,143 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2010 (16 of these were children aged 14 and under).
  • An estimated 75% of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable and the majority of deaths from asthma are preventable.
  • In Northern Ireland, 182,000 people (1 in 10) are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This includes 36,000 children and 146,000 adults.
  • In Scotland, 368,000 people (1 in 14) are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This includes 72,000 children and 296,000 adults.
  • In Wales 314,000 people (1 in 10) are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This includes 59,000 children and 256,000 adults.
  • The NHS spends more than £1 billion a year treating and caring for people with asthma.
  • In 2008/09 up to 1.1 million working days were lost due to breathing or lung problems.