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Charity warns of major variations in asthma care

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There is an “alarming variation” across the country in the numbers of asthma patients who are admitted to hospitals after suffering from an asthma attack, a charity has said.

There is a 19-fold difference in the rates of children admitted to hospital as an emergency between some areas of England, Asthma UK said.

In 2010-11, around 733 out of every 100,000 children were admitted to hospital in Liverpool as an emergency asthma case compared with just 38.7 of every 100,000 children in Tower Hamlets, east London.

The figures, released on World Asthma Day, also show “wide” variations in adult emergency admission rates, the charity said.

In Newham, east London, 193 of every 100,000 adults were rushed to hospital with their asthma compared to just 30.1 of 100,000 adults in Bromley, Kent.

The charity said that three-quarters of hospital admissions could be prevented with the right care and management.

Every day in the UK, 200 people are admitted to hospital because of their asthma, and three of these people will die.

“Everyone with asthma deserves good quality care from knowledgeable healthcare professionals, irrespective of where they live,” said Dr Samantha Walker, director of policy and research at Asthma UK.

“Guidelines are in place to give doctors and nurses the information and advice they need to prevent asthma attacks and save lives. But if these are not put into practice, they’re just a piece of paper.”

The charity has launched an online tool to help patients see whether the levels of care they are receiving meet national standards.

Dr Walker added: “The Compare Your Care campaign will tell us for the first time how close we are to meeting the standards - and will help people with asthma to demand better care if theirs is falling short.”

Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at the charity, added: “We’re alarmed to see that people’s risk of ending up in hospital with an asthma attack depends on where they live. The vast majority of asthma attacks are preventable so these figures suggest that there could be room for improvement in a lot of areas.

“The next step is to build a picture of where care is good and where it may be falling behind, so that we can see if that explains the huge geographical variation in hospital admissions for asthma.

“Good care can prevent asthma attacks and save lives, so it is vital that people check whether their asthma care is meeting national standards. Visit www.asthma.org.uk/compareyourcare to find out how your care rates.”

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