Clinical Features

End of Year Review: Asthma Society of Ireland

Our vision in the Asthma Society of Ireland is that everyone with asthma lives a full life, symptom-free.

Written by Ruth Morrow, Respiratory Nurse Specialist, Asthma Society Ireland

Our mission is to eliminate asthma deaths and transform the lives of people with asthma. 2022 was a productive but challenging year for the organisation. We continue to support people with asthma, parents, carers, health care professionals, teachers and special needs assistants. We learn together and collaborate with healthcare, research and educational professionals to improve our understanding of how asthma works and how to combat it. The Asthma Society contributes at every level of health care – GP, integrated care, secondary and tertiary care working closely with the National Clinical Programme Respiratory (NCPR).

Challenges COVID19 was a challenge in recent years when we had to adapt to working remotely, supporting and responding to the needs of people with asthma. It is important to remember that COVID19 remains a challenge for people living with asthma with the impact of this being reported to us on our two patient support services – Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp nurse messaging service and the Adviceline service. Both services are governed by the Medical Advisory Group which is comprised of asthma and respiratory experts.

This year also brings other unique challenges for our patients and the Asthma Society services. The cost-of-living crisis and inflation has a number of consequences. Patients might not attend the GP or buy their asthma medications due to financial constraints. This results in poor asthma control and an increased need for our services. The energy crisis, inflation and cost of living crisis also impacts on our patients with chronic respiratory disease who require oxygen or nebulized medication. Again, reduced use of treatments due to financial constraints leads to increased morbidity.

The Asthma Society is truly grateful to the public for their donations and generosity, which are critical to the continued delivery of our services. Another possible knock-on effect of the current economic climate is that income generation could be hampered. In addition, overheads associated with running an organization will become more costly such as electricity bills, phone bills, and rent of premises.


WhatsApp Nurse messaging Service –

This nurse-led service allows patients with asthma and/ or COPD, and their family and carers, to confidentially message a respiratory nurse about all aspects of their disease. Service learnings indicate that once-off usage of the WhatsApp messaging service is effective but builds in impact when patients return and use it repeatedly. The nurses provided support to over 700 service users in 2022. Survey results show that those who have used the service are happy to recommend it to others. The WhatsApp Nurse messaging service was funded by the Sláintecare Integrated Fund. It is now funded by the HSE Primary Care Team, with funding fully confirmed to end 2023. This reflects the success and need for this service to the public as part of the holistic care of patients with respiratory illness.

Webinars –

Alongside the nurseled WhatsApp service, educational webinars are conducted for patients, carers and healthcare professionals. The webinar series runs on a 6 weekly basis and has included topics such as Women and Asthma, Ask the Doctor, Children and Asthma, Back2School, and more recently a webinar for Teachers and SNAs on managing asthma in schools. These webinars have proven extremely popular. For each webinar an expert physician in the specialised area and a nurse specialist give a short presentation. In addition to this, the Backto- School webinars featured a teacher and a parent coach. The question and answer session gives attendees unique access to the specialists on the panel with an average of 30 questions being asked. Unanswered questions at the live event can be answered the following day by using the WhatsApp nurse messaging service or the Adviceline. This year, between 200 and 300 people registered for each webinar. On average, 130 attended each webinar (74-250). Registrants can watch recordings on our website, with approximately 70 people availing of this feature each time. The next webinar to be held on Wednesday November 30th is entitled Winter Wellness for People with Asthma.

Asthma Adviceline – This is a free service available to people with asthma in Ireland and their carers. It operates as a call back service whereby a person can book a 30-minute consult with an asthma nurse. This service has been in existence for many years and has grown responding to increased demand particularly since the Covid pandemic. The total number of consultations to Adviceline, combining Asthma and COPD to end of September, was 2889. These calls include new and return consultations. The Adviceline provides up-to-date expert information and advice from asthma specialist nurses. The Asthma Society identified healthcare professional awareness of and referral to the services as being a key priority for the service growth in the future and created a healthcare professional referral strategy, which includes specific actions to support GPs and GP practice nurses in their work to deliver the Chronic Disease Management Programme.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Adviceline –

The COPD Adviceline is a collaboration between the Asthma Society of Ireland, COPD Support Ireland and the HSE. The Asthma Society has a service growth strategy in place to build new and recurring callers and a major focus has been to work closely with COPD Support Ireland to grow COPD calls specifically. A part -time nurse and a part-time physiotherapist continue to specifically meet the needs of COPD patients.

Asthma Safe School Programme –

The Asthma Safe School Programme engages with principals, teachers, SNAs, parents/carers and children to prevent asthma deaths. The aim is to train one teacher per school in PHECC (Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council) approved and certified basic life support and administration of Salbutamol for emergency treatment of adults and children with an acute asthma attack. It also enables school staff to know what to do in the case of an asthma attack, to encourage schools to provide a supportive environment for students with asthma and to create better public awareness of the 5 Step Rule. The Society received funding from the HSE National Lottery Fund for programme delivery in four CHO areas 2, 5, 7 & 9 in 2021/22. We ran an Asthma Safe School webinar, for all principals, teachers and SNAs in September 2022. The number of registrations was 184, attendance was 138 and 42 questions were asked. Funding has been received from CHO areas 3, 7 and 8 for the coming year to continue this valuable programme.

Future Plans-

2023 will see the Asthma Society continue to buildup and develop. It is planned to develop a communications and digital strategy. A fundraising strategy has been developed and we look forward to its implementation. Meeting the needs of people with asthma, marginalised groups and health professionals will continue to be a priority for the organisation. Increasing the number of patients who access our free patient support services is a key priority through collaboration and engagement with the NCPR.


The author would like to acknowledge the help of Mary McDonald, Patient Services Manager and Eilis Ní Chaithnía Interim CEO for their assistance with this article.

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