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Call to asthma patients over care from family doctors

Asthma patients should not be "fobbed off" by their GPs, a charity has said after a new study found that sufferers with poor access to family doctors are more likely to be admitted to hospital as an emergency.

Asthma UK said it is "absolutely vital" that patients get the help they need after a study found that sufferers with better access to primary care experience fewer emergency hospital admissions.

The study, from experts at the University of East Anglia, studied patient data for more than three million asthma sufferers across 7,806 practices in England.

They compared data on emergency admissions with how well GP surgeries performed in a major poll which looked at the quality of care access for patients with their family doctor.

Lead researcher Dr Robert Fleetcroft, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Asthma is a very common condition which affects more than five million people in the UK. Occasionally it can become life threatening and lead to emergency hospital admission.

"We found 55,570 asthma-related emergency admissions and a strong link between poor access to care and higher amounts of admissions. Practices that provided better access to care had fewer emergency admissions for asthma.

"We found that for every 10% improvement in access there was a 32% reduction in emergency admissions. This is really important because there's a significant risk of death for anyone making an emergency trip to hospital with asthma."

Commenting on the study, Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: "People with asthma tell us that it can be difficult to book an appointment with their GP or nurse, so this new research shows how absolutely vital it is that they persist, are not fobbed off and are able to get the help they need.

"Asthma is a highly variable condition and symptoms can worsen very quickly. Three people die of an asthma attack every day and two of these deaths are preventable with better basic care.

"It's essential that access to GP care for asthma patients improves to keep them out of hospital. One in six people who receive emergency treatment for an asthma attack need emergency treatment again within two weeks."

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