Text help for child asthmatics

Children suffering from asthma are to be sent information through their mobile telephones to help them cope with the chronic disease.

John Reid, the Health Secretary, has ordered his officials to investigate proposals for sending children text messages warning of high pollution or pollen levels that could provoke a serious attack.

Children could also register their lung capacity with their family doctor via a link on their mobile telephones. If the readings, which could be sent automatically, showed a dramatic fall, children could receive emergency treatment to prevent an asthma attack.

"We are looking at using modern technology to reduce the risks of asthma attacks in children and adults," said an aide to Mr Reid. "It could prove cost-effective. It is one of the ideas that has come out of the Labour Party's Big Conversation on health policy."

Mr Reid will announce the initiative today as part of a strategy for persuading the public that progress is being made on the health service. He will claim that the Conservative alternative of providing private healthcare vouchers would be expensive if it were extended to include chronic illnesses such as asthma.

Mr Reid will say that the Conservative health policy of providing 40 per cent of the cost of treatment in the private sector would cost £1bn a year if it applied to all those who use private health care.

"We estimate that unless the health budget is raised, the dead weight cost of the Tory voucher scheme would mean, for example, cutting 28,000 nurses," said the aide.

Today's Labour meeting on health follows a long battle by asthma sufferers for their illness to be given greater priority by the NHS.

In 2002, The Independent on Sunday campaigned successfully to include asthma in a new child health service framework, which set out guidance to family doctors and clinics on tackling the rise in child asthma.

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