GP practices could be at risk of overcrowding and thousands could be admitted to hospital due to a basic NHS care backlog, a lung charity has warned.

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Scotland said many people with respiratory diseases have missed out on ongoing care during the pandemic as it raised concerns about a “difficult winter” ahead.

There are estimated to be 120,000 Scots who have missed out on basic care that is crucial to keeping them fit and out of hospital, according to data from NHS Scotland’s Information Service Division (ISD).

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Winter sees 80% more lung disease admissions due to cold temperatures, colds, flu and now Covid-19 able to cause potentially life-threatening flare-ups.

Basic care includes things like annual check-ups and face-to-face consultations. The charity has said that GP practices should be fitted with tools for virtual consultations and patients should be able to choose how they are seen.

Dealing with a backlog of basic care will reduce the risk for overwhelming urgent care facilities, the charity warned.

Dr Andy Whittamore, a practising GP and clinical lead for Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “The signs are pointing to a very difficult winter and it’s vital that people can access the care that they need to stay well.

“Prevention will play a crucial role in helping practices across the country manage seasonal pressures and support patients with lung conditions, including asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), avoid urgent care.

“Annual reviews, a mainstay of lung disease basic care, need to resume to pre-Covid levels.

“However, without guidance from Scottish Government, practices risk being overwhelmed by this backlog, unsure how to prioritise those most at risk.

“Practices will also be looking to the Scottish Government to give clarity around identifying, diagnosing and treating new presentations of respiratory illness this winter and how primary care professionals can work through the backlog of diagnostic tests for suspected respiratory conditions.”

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Joseph Carter, head of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Scotland, said the pandemic is causing additional pressures for the NHS.

“We’ve outlined a road map to restoring basic care for respiratory patients across Scotland, made up of practical solutions for primary care and the support needed,” he said.

“It’s important that the Scottish Government acts quickly to address these concerns and I hope they’ll be forthcoming to give patients the reassurance they deserve.”