Thousands of patients not receiving GP follow-up after asthma attack
Thousands of asthmatics are missing out on ‘vital’ follow-up appointments after asthma attacks
- One in four asthmatics has had emergency care, charity survey of 10,000 shows
- Of these, two thirds do not see their GP within 48h, recommended by guidelines
- Experts said failings are due to NHS systems and patients not being proactive
Thousands of asthmatic Brits have failed to receive potentially life-saving appointments with their GP after an attack, a charity has warned.
Nearly two-thirds of patients surveyed by Asthma UK who received emergency care after an asthma attack did not see their GP in the following two days.
But experts and guidelines say that prompt follow-up care could prevent further attacks and reduce the risk of hospitalisation.
The charity has blamed NHS IT systems and GP shortages for the failures, and said patients need to be more proactive.
One in six people who have emergency treatment for their asthma have another asthma attack in the following two weeks.
Thousands of asthmatic Brits have failed to receive potentially life-saving appointments with their GP, according to a survey by Asthma UK
The Annual Asthma Survey of more than 10,000 people found a quarter needed emergency care following a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
But 64 per cent hadn’t seen their doctor again quickly, despite it being recommended they do so within 48 hours by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD).
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Issues with data sharing across the NHS means that GPs are not being notified that their patients have needed emergency care, the charity said.
Therefore, it warned, the burden is falling on patients to book an appointment, but many are failing to do so.
Of the people with asthma who didn’t get follow-up care, two-thirds (65 per cent) said they didn’t know they should get it.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.
It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.
Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.
Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.
Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.
If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.
Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) said they couldn’t get an appointment with their GP because there was no availability.
The charity is calling for healthcare records and IT systems across the NHS to be joined up so GPs get an alert if their patient has had emergency treatment for their asthma.
Better technology could allow for patients to be automatically booked in for a GP appointment after emergency treatment for an asthma attack – but Asthma UK is also encouraging patients to be more proactive.
This is particularly important if they have had emergency treatment by a paramedic or at hospital, or had to use a ‘rescue’ pack of steroids.
A&E attendances for asthma are estimated to be around 121,000 per year across the UK.
Last year, nearly 5,000 people in England were readmitted to hospital within 30 days of being admitted for an asthma attack.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Clinical Lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: ‘It’s gravely concerning that so many people with asthma could be missing out on life-saving follow-up care.
‘Once you have had an asthma attack, you are much more vulnerable to having another one. This is because there is more inflammation in your lungs so you are more sensitive to any asthma trigger such as cold weather or pollution.
‘It is vital people see their doctor so they can get the help they need to avoid another asthma attack.
‘Patients are slipping through the cracks because NHS systems are letting them down.
‘It is vital that the NHS embraces technology to ensure patients get joined up care. It needs to put systems in place so that patients are automatically given follow-up care if they have had emergency treatment. It could save lives.’
Better information-sharing across the NHS could help to prevent tragic cases like the death of 13-year-old Tamara Mills.
She was seen 47 times by different medical professionals across primary and secondary care in the four years before her death, but no one spotted that she was high-risk because her healthcare records were not shared.
Asthma, which is thought to affect 1.1million children and 4.3million adults in Britain, can be controlled with regular check-ups and a clear plan for how to manage attacks.
Yet every day, three people lose their lives to the condition. Shockingly, the UK has the highest rate of asthma deaths in children in Europe.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN WITHOUT A FOLLOW UP APPOINTMENT?
Lynn Rawes, 43, had an asthma attack after being discharged for another three days prior
Lynn Rawes, 43, a clinical support worker from Lancaster, had emergency treatment for an asthma attack in October last year but couldn’t get follow-up treatment from her GP.
Three days later she was readmitted to hospital with an asthma attack.
She said: ‘I was rushed to A&E after a dog allergy triggered a terrifying asthma attack and I was kept in hospital for two days.
‘When I was discharged, I was advised to arrange a follow-up GP appointment, but I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks. I explained to my GP surgery that I’d had emergency treatment for an asthma attack but they said they couldn’t fit me in.
‘Within three days I was in a terrible state. I was wheezing constantly and my reliever inhaler wasn’t helping so I ended up back at A&E and admitted to hospital for another day. Having another asthma attack when I was still recovering from the first was horrendous.
‘I know asthma attacks can kill, so I think it’s disgraceful that people like me aren’t getting follow-up care. The NHS needs to make it easier for people- I felt as though I was bouncing from pillar to post just to access the care I needed when I was vulnerable and exhausted.
‘If I’d had a follow-up appointment with my doctor, they could have spotted my asthma symptoms were out of control and helped me manage my asthma so I didn’t end up in hospital again.’
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