Delaying asthma and COPD treatment in coronavirus lockdown ‘will cost lives’ – The Sun
Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have issued stark advice to GPs on the urgency of continuing to provide care to patients with respiratory illnesses.
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Both charities called on GPs to prioritise asthma and lung disease patients in order to stop a growing crisis for respiratory conditions.
They warned if the caseloads pile up and treatments are delayed, people would be even more vulnerable to a deadly second peak of COVID-19 which could coincide with the winter flu season.
GPs in England have been allowed to suspend routine reviews for conditions such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) until the end of June as they try to free up space to deal with the pandemic.
But this could be risking lives, the charities have said.
A recent survey by both Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation revealed that 1 in 10 people with asthma said they had already had their routine care cancelled by their GP.
While 24.7% of respondents with COPD said they had either, or both, a regular GP or hospital appointment cancelled due to COVID-19.
Some people with lung conditions have been sent shielding advice by the Government because of the chances of serious complications if they are infected with coronavirus.
But all people with lung conditions are at a higher risk.
Patient reviews, which include action plans and inhaler technique checks, are a key part of keeping symptoms and overall management under control.
Missing these reviews could lead to life-threatening asthma attacks or COPD flare-ups that mean sufferers will be forced to turn to already strained hospital emergency departments for help.
The Government's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has said repeatedly one of the key risks with coronavirus is preventable deaths from people with other conditions, who can't get treatment because the NHS is at breaking point.
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As many as 630,000 asthma sufferers and 225,000 COPD patients could miss their reviews if they are cancelled for three months.
Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation understand the need to free up critical space for COVID-19 patients, but have warned suspended reviews would weaken the NHS in future.
Many of the appointments can be done via video or phone.
Clinical lead for Asthma UK and a practising GP Dr Andy Whittamore said: “Missing out on an asthma review could lead you to have a life-threatening asthma attack, which would require hospital treatment.
“Having an asthma review, checking inhaler technique and providing an up to date asthma action plan are essential.
"If your annual asthma review has been cancelled, contact your GP surgery and ask them to reschedule your appointment using video call.
"If you are getting asthma symptoms three or more times per week, arrange an urgent review.”
Medical director at the British Lung Foundation Dr Nick Hopkinson added: “Annual COPD reviews are an important part of care for people with this condition, many of whom are limited by breathlessness and vulnerable to acute exacerbations.
“Although COVID-19 is disrupting a lot of routine healthcare, it is important that people with the condition seek help if their symptoms worsen.”