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Asthma: primary care data

Practice Team Information

The Practice Team Information (PTI) programme collected consultations for asthma in primary care in Scotland, using a sample of around 60 Scottish practices. PTI data can be used to estimate the national prevalence of asthma (defined as those who have consulted at least once during the year because of the condition). In 2012/13 this figure was 5.0% for all ages (4.3% for men and 5.7% for women).

The peak prevalence of consultation is in the 5-14 year age group in males and in 65-74 year olds in females. Because these figures are based on the number of people consulting they are likely to be an underestimate of the true prevalence of asthma.

An overview of PTI data is available in the Practice Team Information section of the ScotPHO site. More detailed information is available on ISD's Practice Team Information web page.

The collection of PTI data has now been discontinued, but the Scottish Primary Care Information Resource (SPIRE) - a collaboration between the Scottish Government and NHS National Services Scotland - will provide GP consultation data, and is expected in due course.

Quality and Outcomes Framework data

The General Medical Services contract for general practice, introduced in 2004, includes a set of quality indicators within the voluntary Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). The QOF measures achievement against a range of evidence-based indicators and includes quality indicators for asthma.

Three indicators in the most recent (2015/16) QOF indicator set relate to asthma. The details are available in the spreadsheet "List of individual QOF indicators and descriptions" which can be found on the ISD website here.

Before 2006 patients could not be included in both asthma and COPD registers, but from 1st April 2006 it was recognised that the two conditions could co-exist, so that COPD patients with substantial reversibility (>400ml in forced expiratory volume - FEV1) are now included on both COPD and asthma registers. As revised rules now allow patients to be included on both COPD and asthma registers, comparisons in QOF-based prevalence before and after this time should be made with caution.

The crude prevalence of asthma in Scotland (as measured in QOF registers each year for practices with GMS contracts only) has increased steadily over the last ten years starting from 5.5% in 06/07 to a current level of 6.4% in 2015/16.

Note that QOF data are aggregate and do not provide information on age or sex so that comparisons of asthma prevalence between areas using QOF cannot take account of differences in population age structure.

Prescribing data

ISD's Prescribing Programme provides information on the quantity of bronchodilator and other drugs prescribed. As these drugs may also be prescribed for other conditions such as COPD, it is not possible to link prescriptions directly to asthma diagnoses. More recent data uses the community health index (CHI) number to allow person-based analyses.


Primary Care Clinical Informatics Research (PCCIUR) at the University of Aberdeen holds a substantial database of records from around 200 Scottish practices. This has been used for research and to produce consultation and prevalence figures for asthma, although these analyses are not routinely available.

Survey data

Scottish Health Survey

The Scottish Health Survey was carried out in 1995, 1998 and 2003 and has now moved to a continuous design. The survey includes questions on doctor diagnosed asthma and self-reported wheeze. It used to also include a nurse visit at which time lung function data could be collected, although this was not included in the 2012-2015 topics. An overview of the Scottish Health Survey is available in the ScotPHO resources section. Detailed results are available from the Scottish Health Survey publications web page.

Global Asthma Network

Global Asthma Network was established in 2012 and has grown out of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). Global Asthma Network operates on the same principles used in ISAAC conducting surveys as resources allow. Global Asthma Network uses participants from centres around the world. In August 2014 there were 276 centres in 119 countries that had expressed an interest in participating in Global Asthma Network. The results of surveys and research studies are included in the Global Asthma Report 2014.

Please note: If you require the most up-to-date data available, please check the data sources directly as new data may have been published since these data pages were last updated. Although we endeavour to ensure that the data pages are kept up-to-date, there may be a time lag between new data being published and the relevant ScotPHO web pages being updated.


Page last updated: 30 August 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014