Asthma Outcomes — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:40 am on 7th December 2021.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 10:40 am, 7th December 2021

As ever, the hon. Gentleman tempts me to be more ambitious. We have set 2023 as a realistic and achievable target. If it were possible to achieve it sooner, that would of course be a positive. Both in my Department and beyond, everyone will have been encouraged by the hon. Gentleman’s ambition and encouragement to go further and faster on that target, if they can. He makes his point well. I will make a little progress and then come back to several of the hon. Gentleman’s questions.

We recognise the particular effect of asthma on children and young people, which is why NHSEI’s children and young people’s transformation programme is promoting a systemic approach to asthma management. The first phase of the national bundle of care for children and young people with asthma has been developed with clinical and patient experts. A complete version of the bundle of care will be published in spring next year. The children and young people asthma dashboard, developed alongside the bundle, will be able to identify asthma care by race, geography, age and social deprivation, which goes to a number of points highlighted by the shadow Minister, among others. That will help ensure that children and young people with asthma who face the starkest health inequalities are prioritised.

The national care bundle has an environmental impact section that sets out three key standards around air pollution, which is an issue raised by Members on both sides of the House, including Margaret Ferrier, who is no longer in her place. We set out the Government’s clean air strategy in 2019, recognising the impact of air pollution on health and a range of other factors that affect people’s lives. In this space specifically, we recognise three key standards. First, all healthcare professionals working with children and young people with expected or diagnosed asthma should understand the sources and dangers of air pollution. Secondly, patients and their parents or carers should always receive information on how they can manage asthma with regards to air pollution. Thirdly, integrated care systems should ensure that they are linked with schools, where education around asthma should also be provided.

The NICE guidance, entitled “Air pollution: outdoor air quality and health”, provides advice for people with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular conditions on the impacts of air pollution. It is important that we recognise that there are ways that, in a health context, we can care for people who face those impacts. Going back to the 2019 clean air strategy, however, we as a society have a much broader obligation to tackle the root causes of those problems and to improve the quality of our air, particularly in our cities but across our whole country.

Given the pivotal role of respiratory medicine in treating patients with covid-19, some centres’ ability to commence patients on biologics may have been impacted at the peak of the surge. I think all Members will recognise that.

The pandemic obviously revolves around a respiratory illness. Those who treat respiratory illnesses, including asthma, have been on the frontline, along with all our health and care staff. I join the shadow Minister and others in paying tribute to the amazing work they have done. As we seek to recover elective services and get more routine services back to normal, we are ambitious but also recognise, in the face of uncertainties over winter and the new variant, that respiratory services can be some of the hardest to recover and bring back to normal operation, because those are the services affected by the disease and the nature of its transmission.