Community pharmacies need a funding boost to ensure people with asthma or COPD receive effective medication and inhaler instruction, lung health experts have said.
This comes in response to a survey of 1,406 respondents from England over three months - including 723 with asthma, 339 with COPD and 229 with other conditions such as lung cancer - run by the Taskforce for Lung Health, a collaboration of over 40 different charities, organisations and patients working to improve lung health.
People in the poorest neighbourhoods are seven times more likely to die of a lung condition than those in the wealthiest because symptoms more easily emerge when exposed to triggers such as smoking and air pollution, the survey found.
However, the Taskforce argued pharmacists are ‘well placed to help patients with their inhaled medication’, with research from 2014 showing 99% of the most deprived communities live within a 20-minute walk of their local pharmacy.
Community pharmacies should be funded to provide annual inhaler technique checks to address ‘the huge unmet need in lung disease in England’, it added.
Even though national guidelines recommend a yearly review, more than three-quarters of respondents did not have their annual inhaler check last year, the survey also found. That equates to an estimated 3.3 million people missing out on learning how to use their inhalers as intended.
Likewise, only 43% of participants said their health care professional acknowledged correct use before the technique check was over.
Darush Attar-Zadeh, a community pharmacist and Executive Committee Member of the Primary Care Respiratory Society, a Taskforce member, said: ‘Good inhaler technique prevents patients needing to use higher dose inhalers, makes them less likely to be admitted to hospital due to better control of their condition and generally gives the patient a better quality of life’.
Mr Attar-Zadeh added that it is here that the ‘convenience’ and ‘less formal’ nature of community pharmacies’ can make an impact.
He continued: ‘With more than 1.6 million people visiting a community pharmacy each day, pharmacists are also well placed to help patients with their inhaled medication. The Taskforce is calling for community pharmacies to be funded to provide annual inhaler technique checks to address the huge unmet need in lung disease in England’.
Lottie Renwick, vice-chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health and senior policy officer at Asthma + Lung UK, said: ‘88% of the survey respondents who had an inhaler technique check said they found it helpful. Support in the delivery of their medication led to two-thirds feeling more confident, with a clear understanding of their inhaler and having reduced exacerbations from their condition.’
Ms Renwick added: ‘It is unacceptable that a significant proportion of people with asthma or COPD are not accessing the crucial care and support they need to avoid a potentially life-threatening asthma attack or exacerbation…Community pharmacies need to be recognised as a vital resource and used to support people living with lung conditions at a time when health services are increasingly stretched.’