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NHS Direct launches new Patient Support Programme

NHS Direct is working with AstraZeneca to provide a telephone review and follow-up programme for all patients who have been prescribed Symbicort Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (SMART) by their doctor

NHS Direct is working with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (AZ) to provide a telephone review and follow-up programme for all patients who have been prescribed Symbicort Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (SMART) by their doctor.

The new NHS Direct Patient Support Programme, which will be offered to all patients following referral by their GP, will monitor patients by telephone to ensure that they fully understand their new asthma treatment regime and that they are using the correct dose. 

Should patients be over or under-using the inhaler, experiencing inappropriate levels of symptoms or experiencing any new side effects, according to agreed criteria, they will be referred back, by the health advisor, to their GP for a face-to-face consultation.

The programme, which is free to GPs, not only offers patients reassurance and support when starting this new approach to treating their asthma but it is also convenient - as NHS Direct operates outside normal surgery opening hours, patients will be called at a time to suit them.

The process is simple: once a patient has chosen to use the support programme, his or her details will be passed on to NHS Direct by the GP practice. Health Advisors will then contact each patient within seven days.

During the initial phone call, the NHS Direct Healthcare Advisor will carry out a review of the patient's symptoms and medication use using a structured questionnaire. From then on patients will be monitored by telephone for six to 12 months to ensure that they fully understand their new treatment and are using it correctly. Following each review, a report will be sent back to the GP's practice.

All information shared with a NHS Direct Healthcare Advisor is confidential and is only shared with the GP. NHS Direct says it would like to run similar patient support programmes with other pharmaceutical companies. The service does not replace the medical services provided by the GP.

Anne Joshua, Associate Director of Pharmacy at NHS Direct, said: "Our involvement in this programme forms part of our strategy to support people to manage their long-term conditions at home using telephone based care management systems and medicines play a key role in managing long-term illnesses."

Steve Littler, NHS Direct Nurse Manager (asthma team) added: "We are delighted to be working with AZ. The team's knowledge and experience gained from working with asthma patients over the years will enable us to provide a quality and safe service for both the GP practices and their patients."

30th September 2008

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