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Respir Med. 1999 Jun;93(6):397-401.

Are doctors still failing to assess and treat asthma attacks? An audit of the management of acute attacks in a health district.

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Whitstable Health Centre, U.K.


This audit aimed to observe the management of acute asthma by primary and secondary care within a Health District. Asthma attacks occurring during the first 6 weeks of 1996 to patients between the ages of 3 and 74 years in Canterbury and Thanet District were notified by general practitioners, out-of-hours co-operatives and hospitals. Data were obtained retrospectively from the patient records. A total of 378 episodes was registered: 342 (90%) to primary care. Of these 234 (76% of patients aged 6 years or over) had a peak flow recorded; 114 (30%) were given emergency bronchodilation: oxygen was not used in primary care; 204 (54%) were given systemic steroids; and 43 (11%) were referred for hospital care of whom 36 were admitted. Of the attacks, 212 (69% of the patients aged 6 years or over) could be classified by percentage predicted peak flow and management compared to the Guidelines published by the British Thoracic Society. Twenty-eight patients presented with 'life-threatening' asthma: 20 (71%) were given emergency bronchodilation; oxygen was used in only two; 24 (86%) were given systemic steroids; and six (21%) were referred for admission. In their confidential enquiry into the asthma deaths the British Thoracic Society identified a failure to appreciate the severity of the attack, resulting in inadequate emergency treatment and delay in referring to hospital. These data suggest that, 15 years later, these problems may still exist.

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