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Wake-up call to healthcare providers regarding asthma

To mark World Asthma Day on 1 May 2007, Asthma UK has launched a report that unveils huge differences in the numbers of emergency admissions for people with asthma across England, arising from poor levels of care. The report is a wake-up call to healthcare providers and policymakers about the costs and consequences of unnecessary asthma attacks.

The Asthma Divide: inequalities in emergency care for asthma shows a shocking six-fold divide between those PCTs with the lowest and highest number of emergency hospital admissions for asthma. The region with the highest admissions is North-West England, where rates for asthma are a staggering 65% higher than in the East of the country, which has the lowest numbers.

Oldham PCT in the North West comes second on a list of PCTs with the highest emergency admission rates for asthma in England, with admissions 96% above the standardised national average, followed by Liverpool PCT (formerly Central Liverpool PCT), in 6th place and Knowsley PCT in 7th.

The region with the second highest admissions is Yorkshire and Humberside. Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT tops the list of PCTs with the highest emergency admission rates for asthma at 114% above the standardised national average. The lowest numbers were achieved by West Essex PCT (formerly Uttlesford PCT), in East England at 64% below the national average.

A person is admitted to hospital every eight minutes in England because of their asthma. That's on average 185 people per day, and one in six people require further emergency care again within two weeks, yet 75% of admissions for asthma are avoidable and could save the NHS in England an estimated £43.7m a year.

One in four people receives no information about follow-up treatment, and more than one in 10 not know what to do if another attack occurs. Many people who experience an emergency hospital admission for asthma, or care for those that do, have their lives blighted by fear of another attack. Although asthma is serious and widespread, most people with the appropriate support can control it so that they should not have to be admitted to hospital. By improving routine care so that emergency hospital treatment could be avoided, many people with asthma would no longer have to live in fear.

People with asthma can play their part too. They can make sure they have a written personal asthma action plan, if they haven't already got one, as those without a plan are four times more likely to have an emergency admission than those with a plan. They should also go for regular asthma reviews with a GP or asthma nurse and to help them manage their condition Asthma UK's "Be in Control" materials are available via the website