Research reveals that asthmatic children are being failed by patchy access to specialist physio

Gaining access to specialist physiotherapy is a post-code lottery for children with ‘difficult’ asthma, according to new research presented at the British Thoracic Society’s (BTS) winter meeting.


The research suggests that 89 per cent of hospitals are not providing funded physiotherapy services for children with ‘difficult asthma’

Paediatric research physiotherapist, Charlotte Wells, from the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, spoke about her research at the meeting, held in London from 6-8 December.

She told delegates that approximately two to five per cent of children with asthma have ‘difficult asthma’ that can impact on the quality of their lives.

And she explained that she had studied how physiotherapy is currently being funded, utilised and delivered in 18 paediatric hospitals across the UK.

Her research found wide variation in the physiotherapy services offered and a lack of confidence among doctors and nurses in making referrals, which in turn impacted on the funding of these services.

Lack of physiotherapy referrals

The findings suggest that current BTS guideline recommendations on asthma are not being met, with 89 per cent of hospitals not providing funded ‘difficult asthma’ physiotherapy and 66 per cent having no dedicated ‘difficult asthma’ physiotherapy time.

It also found that the majority (94 per cent) of centres relied on referrals from consultants and nurses rather than physiotherapists having the opportunity to routinely assess patients.

Ms Wells said: ‘Right from the diagnosis of asthma, national guidelines recommend that a specialist multidisciplinary team, including physiotherapy, is involved to exclude alternative causes of persistent symptoms, and then to manage appropriate treatment.

‘Physiotherapy improves asthma symptom scores and quality of life, and yet for many children the referral is simply not made.’

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