HC Deb 07 December 1993 vol 234 cc128-9
3. Mr. Eastham

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures her Department is taking to improve the treatment for asthma.

The Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowis)

The chronic disease management programme was introduced in July this year. So far, 90 per cent. of general practitioners have been approved to run an organised programme of care of patients with asthma.

Mr. Eastham

Is the Minister aware that the public feel that not enough urgency is given to the desperate condition of asthma, the incidence of which is growing at a terrific rate? Some 3 million people already suffer from asthma and admissions into children's hospitals have doubled during the past 10 years. It is now costing the nation almost £1 billion. The Government cannot expect to leave the voluntary organisations to care for those suffering from this complaint. The Government have to do far more about the problem of asthma.

Mr. Bowis

That is precisely why we have introduced the programme for general practitioners. It is a tribute to them that 90 per cent. of general practitioners have already accepted the challenge. I am pleased to note that the hon. Gentleman's health authority, North Manchester, has added to this by having an open admissions policy for people with severe attacks. That can only be good for the programme as a whole. We are concerned about the subject, we have taken notice and we have taken action. It is up to everybody—health authorities, general practitioners, the voluntary sector and the Government—to take steps to ensure that the disease is kept under control.

Mr. Alan Howarth

What plans does my hon. Friend have to respond to the call from the Asthma Training Centre, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health recently visited in my constituency, for a national standard of training for health professionals, with accredited courses leading to formal qualification? Will my hon. Friend also act jointly with the Department for Education to make sure that schools have a proper policy on asthma, including the training of designated teachers?

Mr. Bowis

I will certainly talk to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Education. My hon. Friend is right: we are looking at the whole question of training. He is aware that, in addition to the English national board's course for nurses in respiratory diseases, we have a specific diploma course, run by the Asthma Training Centre, which brings people up to speed. My hon. Friend recognises that in the CDM—chronic disease management—programme one of the requirements is that doctors qualifying for that payment have trained staff who can fulfil their duties.