Thousands missing out on routine asthma checks

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Thousands of people who are at a heightened risk of having a fatal asthma attack have not had a face-to-face annual review with a medical professional during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to the charity Asthma UK, which is concerned that people with the most severe symptoms, such as having to use a reliever inhaler three times a week or more or waking up in the night feeling breathless, are not getting the preventative care they need.

Its report published on World Asthma Day earlier this week (5 May) stated that 28% of asthma sufferers had not had an annual review where their medication was checked over the past year, and 21% had not had their inhaler technique checked.

Almost half did not have a written asthma action plan, which the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s best practice guidelines state should be provided by GP surgeries.

Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “It is deeply concerning that so many people including some of the most at risk of an asthma attack are not receiving any basic care which could keep them well and out of hospital.

“Everyone working in the NHS is trying their hardest in these unprecedented circumstances but it is still vital that everyone with asthma gets the care and support they need to avoid a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

“GPs need to balance clinical need and what patients want. People experiencing uncontrolled symptoms must be prioritised for an assessment with their GP surgery as they might benefit from a more thorough assessment which may require a face-to-face appointment.”

Alison Cook, director of external affairs at Asthma UK and the chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health, added: “At a time when we are more conscious of our lungs than ever before, it is particularly troubling to see that in the past year, as many as 450,000 people living with uncontrolled asthma have not been informed about how to use their new inhalers properly, leaving them at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks. An inhaler technique check is basic care and neglecting this type of care puts people at risk.

“Although remote care can be helpful for many people in supporting them with their asthma, for those with uncontrolled symptoms, it is vital that access to face to face care is maintained”.

Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said it is carrying out inspections of fabricated metal businsses to check they are managing the respiratory risks of welding fumes and metalworking fluids.

Over the past year, 12,000 people have died from lung diseases thought to be linked to past occupational exposures in a range of sectors.

The HSE will be looking for evidence of employers and workers knowing the risks of occupational lung disease, planning their work, and using the right controls to protect workers’ health.

“Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do. They must recognise these dangers and manage these risks through reducing exposure,” said HSE’s acting head of manufacturing and utilities Clare Owen.

“Dutyholders need to do the right thing, for example, through completing a risk assessment, ensuring workers are trained and reducing exposure using local exhaust ventilation and using suitable respiratory protective equipment to protect workers, where required.”

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