A national survey of 1,406 people, conducted between April and June 2021 by the Taskforce for Lung Health – a coalition of over 40 organizations aiming to improve lung health in England – found that 75% of those surveyed with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in England did not have their annual inhaler check-ups last year.
“We know that up to 90% of people who use inhalers cannot use them properly,” Darush Attar-Zadeh, a community pharmacist and member of the task force, added last week (April 8).
That’s why community pharmacies should be “funded to provide annual inhaler technique checks to address the huge unmet need for lung disease in England”, the task force stressed.
C+D approached both the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and NHS Improvement to ask if they would consider the task force’s funding request.
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“With more than 1.6 million people visiting a community pharmacy every day,” Mr. Attar-Zadeh said, pharmacists are “well placed to help patients with their inhaled medications.”
Pharmacies also provide “a convenient and less formal environment for those who cannot easily access other types of health services,” he added.
The coalition stressed that pharmacies must “integrate themselves more into the patient journey to work with the rest of the NHS to reduce existing health inequalities in lung disease”.
Millions of people miss checks
The task force estimates that 3.3 million people each year “miss” learning to use their inhalers as intended.
However, only 43% of those who underwent an inhaler check were asked to show their healthcare professional that they “could use my inhaler with the correct technique” before completing the technique check, a added the working group.
Of the respondents, 88% said they found the inhaler technique check helpful, with 41% changing the way they used their inhaler based on the feedback they received.
Although “the correct inhalation technique can be tricky, especially as patterns differ,” the task force said, it is “critical” that patients receive counseling to ensure “they are getting full advantage of the medication to properly manage their condition and prevent it from getting worse.”
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According to data released by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, 30,577 people were admitted to hospital for emergency asthma treatment in 2020/21.
Access to “crucial” annual asthma checks is “likely” to have been impacted by COVID-19, “as all primary care services are currently experiencing backlogs”, the task force added.
The NHS does not have “enough capacity or sufficient manpower to see and support all the patients who need care”, he said.
Pharmacy “could hold the key” to reducing health inequalities
Following the results of the survey, the task force is also calling for regular check-ups with a GP to be part of the care that every patient with lung disease receives, “to ensure that inhaled medications are always used appropriately. safe and effective way”.
Commenting on the study, Lottie Renwick, Vice-Chair of the Lung Health Task Force and Senior Policy Officer at Asthma + Lung UK, said community pharmacy “could hold the key to delivering much needed care and reducing inequalities health,” given “99% of the poorest communities live within a 20-minute walk” of one.
“Community pharmacies must be recognized as a vital resource and used to support people living with lung diseases at a time when health services are increasingly stretched,” she added.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmacy Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), told C+D today (April 11) that the PSNC has asked the NHS and the government for a technical verification service. “properly ordered” inhalation outside of his involvement with the task force,
“Pharmacy teams are supporting these patients through the new medicine department, but regular revisions to inhaler technique are needed for maximum impact.
“This would have to be ordered through the Community Pharmacy contract framework, and would require additional funding on top of the current contract amount,” Buxton added.
As part of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) 2021/22, pharmacy teams were asked to identify patients with asthma or COPD, to whom a new inhaler was prescribed between April 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021, “but whose inhalation technique has not been verified”. due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.