Exclusive - PCT asthma plans are 'hugely disappointing'

One third of PCTs have no respiratory lead, but many impose heavy scrutiny on GP prescribing.

PCTs are failing to monitor their performance in repiratory disease (Photograph: SPL)

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

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

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

In addition, only 48 per cent of PCTs have used disease information management tools to analyse the number of emergency bed days attributable to asthma attacks.

In May, then health secretary Alan Johnson recommended that all PCTs should carry out such an assessment as part of measures to tackle health inequalities.

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 the findings showed the need for PCTs to engage with clinicians in designing services to meet patients' needs. 'It is difficult to know what those needs are unless a baseline assessment is performed,' he commented.

Asthma UK chief executive Neil Churchill said it was 'hugely disappointing' that so many PCTs are not taking respiratory conditions like asthma more seriously.

'Unless PCTs monitor how they are performing, they will waste money and cause thousands of patients the unnecessary distress of an emergency admission,' he told GP newspaper.

'It is vital that all PCTs have an appointed respiratory lead or these figures are unlikely to change.'

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dame Helena Shovelton said the findings were 'depressing and shocking'.

'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,' she said.

PCT Asthma approach

  • 54% of PCTs are looking at differences between practices in respiratory prescribing.
  • 33% do not have a respiratory disease lead.
  • 52% have not looked at how many emergency bed days are attributable to asthma.

Source: GP investigation.


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