Asthma is costing the country €472 million a year and the way in which the condition is managed here is ‘wrong', the Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) has said.
Some 890,000 people in Ireland experience asthma at some stage of their life. ASI has just published a new report, Easing the Economic Burden of Asthma - The Impact of a Universal Asthma Self-Management Programme, which contains the first prevalence and impact assessment of asthma since 2001.
According to its findings, the national economic burden of asthma is €472 million and of this, GP consultations, Emergency Department (ED) visits and hospitalisations account for 57% of total direct costs.
The report noted that in 2017, there were an estimated 2.4 million GP consultations for asthma, along with 625,000 practice nurse consultations. There were also 133,000 ED visits and 8,000 hospital admissions.
"The reality of asthma for our health system and our patients is made crystal clear from this research. It tells us that we are getting asthma management wrong. Structurally, it revolves solely around the asthma patient in crisis and fails in long-term control," commented ASI chief executive, Sarah O'Connor.
She said that the introduction of a universal asthma self-management programme could reduce ‘both the cost factor and the fear factor in asthma management in Ireland'.
Ms O'Connor pointed out that in comparison to other countries in western Europe, Ireland has ‘the poorest mortality outcome from asthma and one of the highest asthma hospitalisation rates'.
"Uncontrolled asthma costs the individual and the State. Research shows that 60% of Irish people with asthma do not have it controlled. Sadly, at present, six people in Ireland die every six days as a result of their asthma," she said.
This concern was echoed by consultant respiratory physician and medical director of the ASI, Dr Marcus Butler, who pointed out that while asthma death rates are falling in many developed countries, ‘alarmingly, they appear to be rising in Ireland'. This is despite the fact that asthma-related death is ‘a largely preventable catastrophic event'.
"Everyday in Ireland, children and adults are being treated in EDs and out-of-hours GP practices up and down the country for uncontrolled asthma symptoms, when they should instead be facilitated in getting on with their lives with minimal intrusion from what is largely a very treatable condition.
"This research contends that a national self-management programme for all asthma patients, irrespective of age, has a high likelihood of substantial cost savings, not to mention the precious safe-guarding of human life and wellbeing that underpins all of our efforts in the asthma community," Dr Butler said.
Anyone with queries about asthma or COPD can contact the free Asthma/COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64, where a nurse will assist them.
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