Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 00:03 UK

Variation in child asthma care

Girl having asthma attack
One in 10 children in the UK has asthma

There is "worrying" variation in the number of children admitted to hospital for asthma attacks in different areas of England, a charity has warned.

Children in Liverpool are eight times more likely to have an emergency admission for asthma compared to those in Richmond and Twickenham, London.

Asthma UK said the figures showed children were not receiving the same standard of care.

The government said it takes good asthma care very seriously.

A report from the charity said a child was admitted to hospital because of asthma once every 16 minutes in the UK.

Emergency hospital admissions for asthma for children and adults cost the NHS 61 million per year, yet 75% of admissions are avoidable through effective management of the condition, it said.

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Figures compiled by Asthma UK show in Liverpool child admissions for asthma are 192% higher than the England average.

Other PCTs with high rates are Knowsley, Heart of Birmingham and Oldham.

The figures, which take into account what the expected rate for the PCT population should be, showed the 10 PCTs with the lowest admission rates were all in the South-East.

Deprivation

Asthma UK said deprivation played a part in the disparities around the country.

But some PCTs are bucking the trend.

HIGHEST ADMISSION RATES
Liverpool
Knowsley
Oldham
Heart of Birmingham
Sefton
East Lancashire
Manchester
Gateshead
Bury
Hull

In Dudley PCT, an area with a large shortage of GPs, admissions are 34% below the national average.

The PCT has been working to reduce unnecessary admissions by introducing training for local healthcare professionals and recruiting a dedicated asthma nurse.

The figures also highlighted variations - although not as pronounced - between health boards within Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Asthma UK called on the government to introduce national standards and said parents needed to make sure their child had an asthma review with the GP every six to 12 months.

Neil Churchill, chief executive of Asthma UK, said the figures painted a "disturbing" picture of unequal access to asthma services.

LOWEST ADMISSION RATES
Berkshire West
Hillingdon
West Essex
Milton Keynes
East and North Hertfordshire
Oxfordshire
South West Essex
Mid Essex
South East Essex
Richmond and Twickenham

"These divisions are unacceptable, particularly the staggering eight-fold difference in admissions in England.

"If asthma is not controlled effectively, the effects can be devastating and in some cases fatal."

A Department Health spokeswoman said: "The government takes treating asthma very seriously.

"By 2010 we would expect everyone with a long-term condition, like asthma, to be offered their own care plan.

"This will mean that they will be provided with information and self management advice to be tailored around their lifestyle.

"GPs are also given financial incentives to provide effective on-going management and treatment for asthma."


SEE ALSO
GPs 'snub' child asthma advice
03 Sep 07 |  Health
NHS 'wastes millions on asthma'
01 May 07 |  Health

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