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Asthma attack fears as one in three patients skips check-up

MORE than one-third of Scottish asthma sufferers are putting themselves at risk of fatal attacks by missing vital checks-ups with their doctors.

New research has found one in three Scots with the condition are skipping annual reviews with their GP to check whether they are on the right medicine and can use their inhalers properly.

The study found Scotland has the lowest percentage of patients attending the yearly medical sessions out of anywhere in the UK, with about 34.7 per cent, or 114,000 people in Scotland, missing out on annual reviews.

The charity Asthma UK Scotland, which compiled the survey, described the situation as "hugely concerning" and urged people with the condition to ensure its was regularly monitored.

NHS Western Isles had the lowest number of patients attending reviews, with only 52.4 per cent making it to their GP. This compares to the South Eastern Local Commissioning Group in Northern Ireland, which had the most patients receiving reviews, at 78.7 per cent.

Gordon Brown, national ­director of Asthma UK Scotland, said: "The fact that Scotland has the lowest percentage of patients attending their annual reviews in the UK highlights a serious challenge for doctors.

"It's one that shouldn't be underestimated as there's no doubt this is putting one-third of people with asthma at greater risk of a potentially fatal asthma attack.

"With the worrying scale of prescribing errors identified by the National Review of Asthma Deaths, it's vital that doctors and nurses do everything they can to follow up with patients to review their medicines, especially as asthma can vary hugely over the year."

The recent UK-wide National Review of Asthma Deaths found prescribing errors in nearly half (47 per cent) of asthma deaths and room for improvement in the care received by 83 per cent of those who died.

The National Review also ­highlighted that only 57 per cent of those who died had an annual review of their asthma in the last 12 months of their life and, of those who did, many people's reviews did not include the key components.

Dr Mark Levy, National Review of Asthma Deaths clinical lead at the Royal College of Physicians, said: "Asthma reviews were used as one of the indicators of quality in the National Review of Asthma Deaths when reviewing the care received by those who died.

"Not receiving a review was identified as a possible contributing factor to many of the deaths, and a number of the report's recommendations indicated that GPs and secondary-care providers must improve the quality and frequency of asthma reviews.

"It really is imperative that everyone has a review to reduce their risk of an attack."

There were 89 deaths from asthma in Scotland and 1,242 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2012. The charity estimates that 75 per cent of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable, and says and the majority of deaths from asthma are preventable.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We welcomed the publication of the National Review of Asthma Deaths, which was the first major investigation of its kind.

"We are currently working with the Respiratory National Advisory Group to study the key findings of this report.

"This is part of a wider programme of work to identify the main priorities for Managed Clinical Networks in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all respiratory conditions to allow improved care to delivered in communities throughout Scotland.

"We are working with health boards and a range of stakeholders to ensure people with respiratory conditions will be able to safely and effectively self-manage their condition by accessing consistent, high-quality education and by creating mutually agreed care plans."

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