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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

GPs' asthma help underestimated

Patients are underestimating the severity of their asthma, and are unaware of how much GPs can help them because of a lack of information, a new study concludes.

In a paper published in the March issue of the Primary Care Respiratory Journal, researchers found 14 per cent of patients with asthma had 'no ongoing contact with any health care professional'.

Some 58 per cent of patients were happy with their asthma care – but this figure dropped to 33 per cent after they were informed about current asthma guidelines.

Only 24 per cent of patients expected their symptoms to improve over time, and while 91 per cent of patients thought their asthma was well controlled, two-thirds experienced symptoms more than once a week.

Study co-author Professor Martyn Partridge, who is chair of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said the number of patients not in regular contact with a GP was in line with previous research from the National Asthma Campaign and suggested there could be 700,000 'missing' asthma patients in Britain.

But he said: 'The new GMS contract will deal with the problem by promoting regular reviews – although the important thing is what GPs do during the review.'

The quality and outcomes framework offers 20 points – £1,500 for the average three-partner practice in 2004/5 – for reviewing asthmatic patients at least once every 15 months.

Professor Partridge said GPs need to assess the severity of a patient's symptoms and if the symptoms had worsened they should take the opportunity to explore the reasons behind this. Patients may not be taking their medications, or may be taking insufficient


'Many patients don't realise they don't have to suffer – they could be suffering because of a lack of information about their condition, or they have adapted to their symptoms or they trade it off because they don't want to tell their doctor or the doctor doesn't listen.'

Professor Partridge said he wanted to ban the 'How are you? question because it was a barrier to the patient really telling the doctor what was wrong.

He backed giving patients information about their condition and said that self-management action plans had been one of the five key messages of asthma guidelines for the past 14 years.

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