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Asthma hospital admissions linked to poor general practice access

Asthma sufferers with poor access to primary care are more likely to experience an emergency hospital admission – according to University of East Anglia research.

New findings published today show that Asthma sufferers with better access to primary care experience less emergency hospital admissions.

It is hoped that the findings could help save lives – because attacks that lead to emergency hospital admissions are often life threatening.

Lead researcher Dr Robert Fleetcroft from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: “Asthma is a very common condition which affects more than five million people in the UK. Occasionally it can become life threatening and lead to emergency hospital admission.

“Up to 90 per cent of deaths and 70 per cent of emergency admissions with asthma are associated with potentially preventable factors.

“We studied the relationship between access to primary care and rates of hospital admission to see whether there was a link.”

The research team studied patient data for more than three million asthma sufferers across 7,806 practices in England (95 per cent – a large survey sample). They compared data on emergency admissions with access to primary care as detailed in the GP Patient Survey – a sample of five million patients (10 per cent of the practice population).

The team also looked at variables including the size of practice, whether the area was classed as deprived, the age, ethnicity and gender of the population, and the distance of the practice from the nearest hospital by road.

When looking at access to primary care, they took into account variables including whether patients could get through on the phone, and whether they were able to book appointments.

“We found 55,570 asthma-related emergency admissions and a strong link between poor access to care and higher amounts of admissions. Practices that provided better access to care had fewer emergency admissions for asthma.

“We found that for every 10 per cent improvement in access there was a 32 per cent reduction in emergency admissions. This is really important because there’s a significant risk of death for anyone making an emergency trip to hospital with asthma.

“We also found that emergency admissions were greater in areas where higher proportions of the population were white. Other studies have found this to be the case generally for total hospital emergency admissions.

“This research adds weight to the growing association between better access to primary care and lower rates of emergency admissions for a number of other conditions including heart failure, diabetes, stroke, cancer and epilepsy,” he added.

Emergency hospital admissions for asthma and access to primary care; cross-sectional analysis’ is published in the British Journal of General Practice on June 21, 2016.

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