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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 01:51 GMT
New guidelines on asthma
Britain has more than 5 million asthma sufferers
Every asthma patient in the UK will be given a written action plan, under new national guidelines to tackle the disease.

The measure is part of a drive to prevent asthma deaths and cut asthma attacks and illness.

Asthma management must be continuous and should not stop at the hospital gates or the GP surgery door

Dr Bernard Higgins, Freeman Hospital
More than 5 million people in Britain suffer from asthma.

There are an estimated 1,500 deaths a year and 74,000 emergency hospital admissions.

The voluntary guidelines - the first since 1997 - have been drawn up by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).

They are aimed at all health professionals who deal with asthma patients.

Close follow-up

The report says patients who have severe asthma symptoms and psychological or social problems are most at risk of dying from an asthma attack.

It recommends all patients admitted to hospital with severe asthma should be followed-up for at least a year by a specialist.

They should also be given a peak flow meter (equipment used to check lung function) and regular checks on drug and inhaler use.

Other moves include recommending asthmatic mothers to breast feed their babies to reduce the risk of wheezing and discouraging smoking.

'Step forward'

Dr Hilary Pinnock, a Kent-based GP, and member of the guideline group, said deaths from asthma had been going down over the last decade.

The guidelines were aimed at setting a standard and raising awareness of the latest evidence on patient care, she said.

"Written action plans are a way to try and support patients in their decisions so that they take the most appropriate action," she told BBC News Online.

"As a result of which they will be able to improve their asthma control, improve quality of life and reduce time off work."

Dr Bernard Higgins, BTS spokesperson and consultant physician at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said the guidelines represented "a real step forward" in asthma care.

"Asthma management must be continuous and should not stop at the hospital gates or the GP surgery door," he said.

UK charity, The National Asthma Campaign, said it welcomed the guidelines but called on the government and the NHS to ensure they were put into practice.

See also:

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15 Jun 99 | Medical notes
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