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Inhaler technique services provide support for patients with long-term respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
Asthma is the most common lung disease in the UK, affecting 5.4 million people, but recent reports have warned that basic care for patients is still not up to scratch.
In 2015, a review of asthma deaths, published by the Royal College of Physicians, found that nearly a quarter of asthma patients who died were receiving less than satisfactory care. Over half (58%) of patients were also being treated for mild or moderate asthma at the time of death, which suggested the condition was poorly-controlled or under-treated, rather than truly mild or moderate, the report said.
Similarly, COPD affects an estimated three million people in England, but only 900,000 have received a ‘clear and accurate’ diagnosis and are receiving appropriate treatment, according to an outcomes strategy published by the Department of Health in 2011.
Both reports indicated that improving inhaler technique could contribute significantly to improving the symptoms and outcomes of patients living with these conditions.
How pharmacists can help
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at the national charity Asthma UK, says pharmacists can play a vital role in reinforcing asthma education, ‘particularly around the links between symptoms and the increased risk of an asthma attack’.
He adds that pharmacies are in a unique position because most people see their pharmacist more frequently than their GP and they therefore have the opportunity to quickly assess a person’s adherence to their medication. They may notice, for example, that a patient is collecting multiple prescriptions for reliever inhalers, which would be a warning sign that their asthma is not under control, he says.
‘Inhaler technique can easily be assessed in a community pharmacy setting and if pharmacists are able to check asthma control and medication use, it will help to highlight those patients who need more support with their condition,’ he says.
Author: Rachel Carter