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Study urges audit of winter respiratory risk in elderly

GPs should audit practice data in the run-up to Christmas

to identify elderly patients at high risk of hospitalisation over the winter, Health Protection Agency researchers urge.

Their study, presented at the British Thoracic Society conference, found patients who were housebound or had chronic diseases were at increased risk of hospitalisation for respiratory illness ­ irrespective of vaccination status.

The risk of hospitalisation for acute respiratory illness or an exacerbation of chronic respiratory disease increased 3.4-fold in patients with COPD, 2.6-fold in those with other chronic diseases and 6.9-fold in those with both.

Being housebound increased risk 2.9-fold and being a smoker 2.5-fold. But the study, of 158 elderly patients in 80 practices, found influenza or pneumococcal vaccination offered no significant protection against hospitalisation.

Study leader Rachel Jordan, HPA senior scientist at the University of Birmingham, said: 'Our research can point GPs to the patients most at risk.'

She said GPs could review treatment, encourage medication compliance, give preventive advice and update vaccinations.

But Dr Steve Illife, director of primary care and older people at University College London, cautioned: 'The authors recommend intervention to prevent admissions, but I'm not sure exactly how they see these interventions taking place.'

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