An NHS asthma team in the Tees Valley has transformed its service so people get treatment more quickly and closer to their homes – with plans for a regional hub.
Over the last nine months, the service at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has created a special asthma treatment pathway for hospital patients.
The care bundle – looking at details like inhaler technique, review of medications, any triggering factors like smoking and mental health – is being used for patients admitted to the University Hospital of North Tees.
Since the asthma team started working with hospital staff on use of the bundle, patients being discharged from hospital with it in place has risen by more than 50 per cent.
The service is continuing to build on this progress – with plans for a region-wide severe asthma service with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.
With the nearest clinics only currently available in Newcastle, this will provide follow-up hospital care for asthma sufferers from the three health trusts in the area.
Louise Parkin, who is the service’s asthma lead, said: “The way we are treating patients with asthma has improved significantly over the last few months.
“The asthma service has worked hard with hospital staff to improve the whole pathway and, thanks to this, the number of patients receiving a care bundle has increased.
“There are also significant health inequalities for some people – I have spoken to patients who can’t travel to Newcastle for their treatment.
“This new collaboration in the Tees Valley will mean patients can get biological therapy, closer to their home.”
The service has also expanded, with it now including a lead nurse, two senior nurses, specialist healthcare assistant Dean Williams and a physiotherapist.
Steroid use clinic
And, in a further development, the service is also starting special clinics to help wean asthma patients off steroid use.
Louise added: “This region has the highest percentage of steroid use in asthma compared to other parts of the country.
“We want to look at reducing the risks of long-term damage from steroids by helping wean patients off.
“This is about finding the right fit for each patient and educating them on the long-term use of steroids.”
Janice Hutchinson, 60, from Hartlepool, suffered an asthma attack four weeks ago and was treated at the University Hospital of North Tees.
During her stay she had a care bundle arranged and has attended a two-week follow up appointment with the asthma service.
This included a breathing test to look at inflammation in the airway to help guide the asthma team on next steps for treatment.
Praise for new service
Speaking at the appointment, she said: “It started off as a cough and just got worse and worse.
“I was looking after my granddaughter at soft play and started to feel unwell. As I got home I became very breathless and started panicking.
“This is the first time I have ever been hospitalised for this. During my 10-minute conversation with the service, I learned more about asthma than I have ever known before.
“We went through a series of questions – things like triggers, family and work history, other medical conditions and was asked to complete an asthma diary with details like medications and inhaler types.
“The team have made several improvements to the way I treat my asthma and have really helped me.”