Exclusive: One in three PCTs 'fail' on asthma care

One in three PCTs in England have no respiratory disease lead and half have not carried out service assessments recommended by the DoH, a GP newspaper investigation has revealed.

Asthma inhaler use (Photograph: GAVIN KINGCOME/SPL)
Asthma inhaler use (Photograph: GAVIN KINGCOME/SPL)

However, many PCTs are scrutinising the way GPs prescribe respiratory medicines.

Of 99 PCTs that responded to a request for information, 46% are examining individual practices' asthma prescribing. However, even among this group, 29% have not appointed a respiratory lead.

In addition, only 48% of PCTs have used disease information management tools to analyse the number of emergency bed days attributable to asthma attacks. In May, the then health secretary Alan Johnson recommended that all PCTs should carry out such an assessment as part of measures to tackle health inequalities.

In addition, half of the PCTs that have not examined emergency bed days attributable to asthma are examining GP prescribing.

Somerset GP Dr Steve Holmes, a member of the General Practice Airways Group (GPIAG), said it was ‘imperative' that PCTs respond to the needs of respiratory disease patients. ‘A respiratory lead in every PCT is achievable, and should act as a driver for improvements in patient care,' he said.

Leicestershire GP and GPIAG member Dr Dermot Ryan said that the findings showed the need for PCTs to engage with clinicians with designing services to meet patients' needs. ‘It is difficult to know what those needs are unless a baseline assessment is performed,' he commented.

Neil Churchill, chief executive of Asthma UK, said: ‘It is hugely disappointing that such a large percentage of PCTs are still not taking respiratory conditions like asthma more seriously.

‘There are over 200 emergency admissions for asthma every day in the UK, costing the NHS over £61m per year. We believe that up to 75% of these admissions could be avoided but unless PCTs monitor how they are performing, they will waste money and cause thousands of patients the unnecessary distress of an emergency admission. It is vital that all PCTs have an appointed respiratory lead or these figures are unlikely to change.

‘We are working with a number of PCTs across the country to try to improve the standard of care for the 5.4million people suffering with asthma in the UK but it is crucial that health commissioners recognise that far more needs to be done.'

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dame Helena Shovelton said: ‘We are delighted this information has become available.  It is depressing and shocking that only two thirds of PCTs have a respiratory lead.  Respiratory disease is a huge killer in the UK and needs to be put at the heart of care for everyone all over England.

‘It is also concerning that so few PCTs use the management information tools available which could help them analyse and manage asthma better and avoid hospital admissions.  When taken with the information that so few do a proper analysis of asthma control through medication it is a bleak picture for people with asthma and the other lung diseases like COPD.  If they do not get help from their PCT through primary and secondary care who can they turn to for help?

‘We urge every PCT to re-examine their policies and priorities and put in place proper systems to deal with those people affected by lung disease who need their help.'

GP Online recommends

Asthma UK

Read more

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Hospitals adding to GP crisis with constant flow of work dumped on practices, say LMCs

Hospitals adding to GP crisis with constant flow of work dumped on practices, say LMCs

Hospitals are compounding the GP workload crisis by dumping 'endless tasks' on primary...

Abnormal vaginal discharge - red flag symptoms

Abnormal vaginal discharge - red flag symptoms

Advice on red flag symptoms in patients with vaginal discharge, including what examinations...

GMC demands 'greater autonomy' to tackle bias against BAME doctors

GMC demands 'greater autonomy' to tackle bias against BAME doctors

The GMC has called for ‘greater autonomy’ to choose the complaints it investigates,...

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK are playing a leading role in the largest-ever NHS vaccination...

Government must invest to end 'historic' GP crisis in wake of COVID-19, says BMA

Government must invest to end 'historic' GP crisis in wake of COVID-19, says BMA

General practice is facing 'historic workforce and workload crises' that have been...

Most GP care should be face-to-face post-COVID, says RCGP

Most GP care should be face-to-face post-COVID, says RCGP

General practice faces a 'rebalancing' between face-to-face and remote consultations...