Asthma charity calls for big changes to curb rocketing NHS costs

Charity calls for a fresh approach in asthma care as research confirms the UK has one of the highest burdens of the condition in the world

Catriona Webster
Sunday 28 August 2016 23:59
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Ivax Reliever inhaler used for the treatment of asthma
Ivax Reliever inhaler used for the treatment of asthma

A charity has called for a sea change in asthma care after research showed the condition costs the UK at least £1.1bn each year.

Asthma UK said a different approach making the best use of new technologies, such as smart inhalers, was needed urgently to ease the burden on the NHS.

More than 270 people are admitted to hospital each day because of asthma attacks with at least three deaths daily, according to the most comprehensive study of the condition in the UK.

The UK-wide research, led by the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at the University of Edinburgh, found there were around 6.4 million GP and nurse consultations for asthma each year.

Researchers estimated that at least £666m is spent annually on prescription costs, with £160m on GP consultations, £143m on disability claims and £137m on hospital care.

The team said the findings confirmed the UK has one of the highest burdens of asthma in the world, with more than 18 million people treated for the condition at some stage in their life.

Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, said: “Despite the fact we're spending over a billion pounds a year on asthma, many people are still not receiving care that meets even the most basic clinical standards.

”It's clear this has to change and a different approach is urgently needed.

“We strongly believe new technologies such as smart inhalers are the likely game changer that could reduce asthma attacks and ease the burden on the NHS.

”Supporting people to better manage their asthma with new technologies would likely lead to healthier lifestyles, reducing the need for NHS appointments and admissions and freeing up care for those who need it most.“

Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: ”Even with conservative assumptions, we find almost 100,000 people are admitted to hospital and there are at least 1,000 deaths from asthma each year in the UK.

“This is unacceptable for a condition that, for most people, can be managed effectively with the right support from their GP.

”Greater focus on primary care is needed if we are to cut rates of severe asthma attacks, hospitalisations and deaths.“

The research was drawn together from national health surveys and anonymised administrative, health and social care records in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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