Workforce crisis leaves GPs struggling to maintain asthma care, warns RCGP

A severe shortage of GPs and rising patient demand is making it 'increasingly difficult' for practices to maintain asthma care, the RCGP has warned.

The college was responding to charity Asthma UK’s annual asthma survey report, which revealed that an estimated 3.5m asthma patients in the UK are not receiving basic levels of care.

Asthma UK defines basic asthma care as patients having received an annual asthma review, a written asthma action plan and an inhaler technique check with a healthcare professional.

Some 35% of the 7,611 respondents to the survey had received all elements of this package, an increase on the 33.5% who had done so last year. Asthma UK said that the upward trend was a result of an increase in the number of people having a written asthma action plan, which was 43.9% of respondents in 2017 compared with 42.4% the previous year.

The 2017 survey found that 77% of asthma patients had received an annual asthma review and 76.5% had their inhaler technique checked.

The report also revealed that nearly a third of respondents (29.3%) had received emergency or unplanned care at a hospital or out-of-hours centre for their asthma in the previous year. However, of those who had received emergency care, only 29.7% received a follow-up appointment with their GP within two working days, as recommended by the National Review of Asthma Deaths in 2015.

Asthma UK said that better data sharing between GPs and hospitals would improve discharge arrangements and increase the number of people with asthma receiving a follow-up appointment.

Dr Imran Rafi, chair of the RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research Centre, said: ‘GPs recognise that asthma is a serious and distressing condition. In general practice, we encourage the use of personal asthma action plans for patients and we work with high-risk patients to ensure they are undergoing regular reviews of their asthma plans.

‘GPs would like to spend more time with their patients, especially those with chronic diseases like asthma, but with severe GP shortages across the UK and rising demand for our services, this is increasingly difficult.

‘This report recognises that we need better information sharing between primary and secondary care to improve the outcomes of patients with asthma, and we agree that this process needs to be more seamless to ensure patients are receiving the best possible care throughout.

'It is also vitally important that patients understand their treatment and how to properly use equipment, such as inhalers, and we support any measures that encourage patients to feel more confident to manage their condition effectively and appropriately.'

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