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New integrated approach to asthma care

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

21st February 2013 - The NHS is promising a more integrated approach to asthma care.

New standards on the diagnosis and treatment of asthma in England are published today by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Asthma UK says the new standards "could change millions of lives".

More than 5.4 million people in the UK receive treatment for asthma, including 1.1 million children. Asthma caused 1,131 deaths in 2009.

New asthma standards

The promises in the new guidance include:

  • A structured asthma review at least annually.
  • People with asthma will receive a written personalised action plan.
  • Adults who develop asthma will be assessed for work or occupational causes, where removing the cause may help reduce symptoms.
  • People with asthma aged five and over who see a healthcare professional with a severe or life-threatening acute exacerbation of their asthma will receive oral or intravenous steroids within an hour of presentation.
  • People with difficult to treat asthma will be offered an assessment by a specialist multidisciplinary service.
  • People with asthma will be given specific training and assessed on inhaler technique before starting a new inhaler treatment.

NICE says the plan should help improve the "effectiveness, quality, safety and experience of care: for people with asthma".

In a statement, NICE deputy chief executive Gillian Leng says: "Asthma is a common lung disorder in the UK and can have a significant, negative effect on a person’s quality of life. NICE is pleased to be publishing this new quality standard on asthma, which contains eleven statements that will contribute to improving the quality and experience of care for those with the condition."

Professor Sue Hill and Dr Robert Winter, joint national clinical directors for Respiratory Disease, add: "Asthma is an area where we can, and should, be doing so much more. This new NICE quality standard is a great step forward as it reinforces those areas where best practice and guidelines should be applied.

"If we address the areas of care highlighted in this quality standard, then we should see significant improvements in outcomes for people living with asthma and their overall quality of life."

Personal action plans

Emily Humphreys is head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK. She tells us that currently the standard of care can differ greatly from area to area: "It is quite patchy, both in terms of service provision and outcomes.

"There are really big differences in the number of people who are having to be admitted to hospital and in the number of people who are getting regular reviews.

"It's great in some places but not so great in others, and we want to see it consistently good all across the NHS."

Asthma UK is particularly pleased to see the inclusion of personal asthma action plans. "They're a fundamental component of self-management," Emily says.

"Most of the time you are looking after yourself. You're adjusting your medicines. You're monitoring your symptoms. You're making judgments all the time about whether you need to seek medical help, whether you need to be taking more of your asthma reliever inhaler."

Emily says their research has found less than 15% of people with asthma have an action plan at the moment.

"Without a personal asthma action plan, you are four times more likely to have an asthma attack that requires you to be admitted to hospital. They really do make a huge difference."

Reviewed on February 21, 2013

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