As many as three-fifths of people with asthma in the UK are still not receiving critical elements of routine care, and those aged 18–29 years are faring the worst, according to the Annual Asthma Survey 2018 from charity Asthma UK.
The survey, which received 10,064 responses, also says that basic care — which, according to guidelines, should include an annual asthma review, written asthma action plan and inhaler technique check — is still a “postcode lottery” across the UK, with the lowest rates of basic care found in Wales and London.
The report, ‘The reality of asthma care in the UK’, found a “modest” improvement on the figures from the 2017 survey across all areas of basic care, but it also showed that 81% of respondents reported that they had uncontrolled asthma — a slight improvement at a 4% decrease since 2017.
It points out that the provision of follow-up care after an emergency admission remains “dangerously low”, with 64% of patients with asthma not receiving a follow-up and 65% not even being told they should have one, despite it being required by guidelines set out by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence and the British Thoracic Society.
For the first time in its annual survey, Asthma UK asked participants about asthma attacks and how they managed them. The responses revealed that many people were managing their asthma attacks alone, and that the average number of asthma attacks per year could be almost four times greater than had been previously estimated. Previous estimates, calculated from 2013 surveillance data, suggested that there was an average of 0.57 attacks per person per year, but the survey indicates that the average could be 2.00 attacks per year.
Anna Murphy, consultant respiratory pharmacist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said the survey painted a “dismal picture” of asthma care in the UK.
“Unfortunately I am not surprised — we have seen minimal change in asthma care improvements following the publication of [the National Review of Asthma Deaths] in 2014.
“It is time for asthma to be taken seriously and everyone involved in the care of people with asthma, including the patient, to start managing asthma as per our national guidelines, and raising the standard for controlling asthma.”
She added that because asthma patients have regular contact with their community pharmacist, there was a great opportunity for them to help improve standards of care — possibly more than any other healthcare professional.
“I encourage all pharmacists to prioritise asthma patients for [medicines use reviews] and [new medicines services], and improve the care of people with asthma in your area.”