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RCN calls for action to curb record asthma deaths

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Asthma Centre/ BURGER/PHANIE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Health professionals believe that better basic care could slash asthma deaths

The RCN has called for all asthma patients to given a personalised asthma plan to help curb an alarming rise in asthma deaths. The College issued its call as an Asthma UK analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that deaths from asthma have spiked by 33% in the last ten years.

“We know that patients with personalised asthma plans can manage their condition much more effectively, lower their risks of life threatening attacks and thereby, reduce the number of unnecessary deaths from asthma,” said Amanda Cheesley, RCN professional lead for long-term conditions. “Only through proper investment and access to better information can this tragic rise in deaths be halted.”

Asthma UK says that 1,400 people died from an asthma attack, an 8% increase since 2017 and the highest number for a decade. The charity says there have been 12,700 deaths from the condition in the last 10 years. This, it claims, is because 60% of people with the condition are not receiving basic care. The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD), commissioned by the NHS and Department of Health five years ago, found that two-thirds of asthma deaths could have been prevented by better basic care. Of the 19 recommendations made by NRAD, only one has been partially implemented.

“It is completely unacceptable that thousands of people with asthma in England and Wales have died needlessly,” said Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK.

“The NHS must act now to ensure that everyone with asthma in England and Wales gets basic asthma care which includes a yearly review with their GP or asthma nurse, a check to ensure they are using their inhaler properly and a written asthma action plan. The NHS needs to ensure that all healthcare professionals are providing this care to patients.”

These concerns were backed by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) who said more must be done to help patients manage their care and that meant more trained staff. “Ultimately, we need more GPs and more members of the practice team so that we can spend longer with our patients with asthma,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP.

“It is vitally important that patients understand how to properly use equipment, such as inhalers, peak flow meters, and spacer devices. It is also essential that patients always have access to their prescription medication and do not allow inhalers to run out or expire before they ask for replacement prescriptions.”

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I suspect many of theses deaths have been in people who have been offered basic asthma care including annual review by a trained professional but who have failed to attend or to use the advice and education given. As is often the case the people who most need help often do not seek it. Perhaps more high profile media campaigns about the vital importance of preventer therapy and what to do when things get worse might be part of the answer
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