Three-quarters of emergency admissions for asthma in England could have been avoided, a report argues.
Effective control should minimise risk of hospitalisation
The charity Asthma UK said better guidance to help patients manage their conditions could save the NHS in England £43.7 million a year.
Its study found the rate of emergency admissions for asthma patients varies hugely across England.
There was a six-fold variation between primary care trusts (PCTs) with the lowest and highest rates of admission.
HIGHEST ADMISSION RATES
Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT: 114% above the national average
Oldham PCT: 96% above
Sandwell PCT: 93% above
Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT: 87% above
Uttlesford PCT: 64% below average
South East Hertfordshire PCT: 60% below
Royston Buntingford and Bishop's Stortford: 57% below
The report showed that in 2004 more than 67,700 people were admitted to hospital with asthma in England - an average of 185 people per day.
The north-west had the highest rate of any region - 65% higher than the lowest, the east of England.
Asthma UK said that one in six people require further emergency care again within two weeks.
The charity has also calculated that one in four people receive no information about follow-up treatment, and more than one in 10 are unaware of what to do if another attack occurs.
It stressed that although asthma is serious and widespread, most people with the appropriate support can control it, and should not have to be admitted to hospital.
A study, published last month in the journal Thorax, concluded that inner city children from poor families are much more likely to seek emergency care for asthma than their more affluent peers.
The researchers, from Wandsworth PCT in London, concluded that parents believed it was the best way to ensure faster treatment for their child.
Donna Covey, chief executive of Asthma UK, said it could be devastating both physically and mentally to require hospital treatment for asthma.
"Reducing the hospital admissions of people with asthma is a key aim for Asthma UK."
The charity has launched support materials to help healthcare professionals who are likely to deal with asthma patients.
It is also calling on the government to boost specialist support services, abolish prescription charges for people with asthma and involve them in the design of services so that their needs are met appropriately.
In addition, it advises all people with asthma to draw up a written personal action plan for care.
Research shows that people who have such an action plan are four times less likely to require an emergency hospital admission.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The government takes asthma very seriously.
"In the NHS Improvement Plan, we made it a priority to improve care for people with long-term conditions, such as asthma, by moving away from reactive care in hospitals to preventative, personalised, care in the community.
"The General Medical Services Contract also includes a specific 'quality indicator' for the treatment and care of people with asthma.
"This means that GP practices must now effectively manage and review patients with asthma in order to qualify for additional quality payments."