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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Many face needless asthma misery
Image of an asthmatic girl using an inhaler
Asthma rates have been increasing
More than half a million people have an asthma attack almost every day even though their condition should be under control, research suggests.

The report, by Asthma UK, found that another million people had a needless attack every week.

The charity blames poor communication between asthma patients and their GPs.

It says all patients should have a regular review of their condition to ensure it is properly controlled.

The charity quizzed 1,391 people with asthma. It found 75% of those with mild to moderate forms of the condition still suffer debilitating symptoms that regularly restrict their daily lives.

People with asthma expect their condition to compromise the way they live their lives, yet this simply should not be the case.
Donna Covey
This is despite the fact that proper clinical management should enable most people with less severe forms of asthma to live virtually symptom free.

Around half of those who took part in the survey reported that they were never or only occasionally asked by their doctors how frequently they had asthma attacks.

Four in ten said they were never or only occasionally asked about their symptoms more generally.

And 68% said their GP or practice nurse had failed to ask if their asthma had affected their ability to take part in any physical activities.

Donna Covey, chief executive of Asthma UK, said: "This survey highlights the shocking state of affairs that people are still suffering in silence.

"Sadly, people with asthma expect their condition to compromise the way they live their lives, yet with the correct treatment and management, this simply should not be the case."

Professor Martyn Partridge, chief medical advisor at Asthma UK, said: "It is very important that people with asthma have regular asthma reviews with their GP, no matter how busy they are, to discuss how asthma is affecting their life.

"They should work with them to devise a personal asthma action plan so that they can achieve greater control of their condition and ensure that they are not restricted by unnecessary symptoms."

The charity has launched an asthma review card which includes questions that GPs should ask patients.

Government response

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government was taking action on a number of fronts to improve asthma care.

"In particular, the new General Medical Services Contract includes a specific 'quality indicator' for the treatment and care of people with asthma, which will mean that GP practices need to keep records and effectively manage and review patients with asthma in order to qualify for additional quality payments.

"Training in self-management skills for people with long-term chronic conditions including people with asthma will be available via the Expert Patients Programme, which is being rolled out nationwide over the next couple of years."

Shadow Health Minister Simon Burns, said: "There are still thousands of asthma sufferers not receiving the care they deserve from the NHS.

"The current system does nothing to encourage preventative care, many asthma patients only receive help when their condition becomes critical."

He said the Tories would give patients more opportunity to organise individual care plans in collaboration with their doctor.

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