An array of the industry’s leading healthcare representatives gathered under one roof at the ‘Asthma… Time for a Fresh Approach?’ conference in a bid to share knowledge, formulate new ideas, and ultimately better shape the future of asthma care.

Asthma UK estimates that 5.4 million adults and children in the UK are living with asthma. Sparked by this prevalence, it may be presumed that the disease is commonly and appropriately treated – but sadly this just isn’t the case. As many as half of asthma sufferers aren’t taking their prescribed medicines properly, leading to an individual experiencing a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds. The beliefs and behaviours of the patients themselves are also a cause for concern, as it’s only with adherence that their needs will be adequately addressed.

An exciting event recently provided a much-needed platform for the industry to confront these major issues – as well as an opportunity to address the other mechanisms underscoring asthmatic behaviour, and to reflect on the strategies which can enhance the approaches adopted by patients and healthcare professionals alike.

 The conference – ‘Asthma… Time for a Fresh Approach?’ – took place at Dunadry Hotel, Antrim, Northern Ireland, and attracted an 80-plus audience comprising representatives from different corners of the sector.

 In line with the company’s vision of educating healthcare professionals and promoting high quality asthma care, the conference was organised and funded by Napp Pharmaceuticals Limited.

The Line-up

Reflective of the complexity of asthma – and how important it is to undertake a multidisciplinary ethos – various speakers deriving from different backgrounds shared the respiratory-related lessons which they’ve picked up along the way.

Those presenting included:

Dr Vinty McGovern, GP, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust

Dr Iain Small, GP, Peterhead, and NHS Grampian MCN Respiratory MCN Lead

Carole McGrath, Respiratory Nurse Specialist, and Primary Care Respiratory Trainer

Jenny McLornan, Bronchiectasis Nurse Specialist, Chest Clinic, Belfast City Hospital

Deirdre Siddaway, Respiratory Nurse Specialist, Suffolk

Dr Omar Usmani, Respiratory Consultant, Imperial College London

Lesley Kennedy, Paediatric Asthma and Allergy Nurse Specialist, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children

Professor Mike Shields, Paediatric Respiratory Consultant, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children

The Discussion Points

Despite targeting asthma from different angles, one common thread tied all of the presentations together – the centrality of the patient’s role in managing their condition. As such, it’s our job to ensure that they are fully equipped to do so.

Being able to witness the individual’s ability first-hand – and seeing them use their inhaler device instead of just telling you – is vital, and Asthma UK’s Asthma Control Test is a key assistor of this. Through this method, we’re able to assess whether any changes must be applied to optimise their asthma management skills.

Ensuring that the patient is prescribed the most effective inhalation device possible is a continuous process, and one which healthcare professionals must remain diligent about – specifically through the personalisation of MURs. Too many submit to the misjudgement that one MUR list caters for everyone, when in fact they should be patient-specific. When it comes to the necessary alteration of their treatment, the patient needs to be stepped up correctly and on the appropriate dose; especially with combination inhalers. Also highlighted was the need to pick up on overprescribing of SABA inhalers by the GP, pharmacist, nurse etc.

Although we can be stringent about our provision of care, the ultimate responsibility lies with the patient. So, what happens when they are outside of the healthcare setting and must manage their asthma autonomously? The speakers explored the application of knowledge into the patient’s everyday life.

A personalised asthma action plan was noted as a valuable resource, as those who are presented with a tailored one are four-times less likely to have a hospital admission as a result of an asthma attack. It’s particularly worthy of suggestion to young patients and their parents, containing all of the information and tips which they need to stay well.

Based on their asthma history, it enlightens as to which medicines to take each day; how to spot if their asthma is getting worse; what to do when an asthma attack is occurring; and what to do if you have one. The problem of adherence expectedly emerged as an alarming area in this age group too, and how an individualised follow-up, and information about the potential repercussions, may help to deal with patients who don’t attend for their scheduled MUR.

As the day came to an end – concluding with a Q&A session and closing remarks from Dr Vinty McGovern – the delegates departed with an optimistic outlook and a determination to execute this new evidence and advice into their real-life consultations. The future of asthma care is bright.