Objective: To compare the effects on asthma morbidity of asthma clinics based in general practice with standard general practice care.
Design and setting: A randomised controlled trial in eight general practices. Patients, general practitioners and outcomes assessors were not blinded to treatment allocation.
Participants: 195 patients with asthma aged 5-64 years; 191 completed the trial.
Intervention: Three asthma clinic sessions over six months involving nurse counselling, education about asthma management, spirometry and consultation with the general practitioner.
Main outcome measures: Patients reporting days lost from work or school, number of days lost, the presence of morning or nocturnal asthma symptoms, use of an action plan, medication use, current smoking, hospitalisation, and emergency visits.
Results: Asthma clinics were associated with a greater reduction in nocturnal symptoms, an increase in the ownership of peak flow meters and an increase in the number of patients commencing or resuming smoking. Both control and intervention groups showed similar improvement in days lost from work or school, the presence of symptoms, use of an action plan and taking reliever medication.
Conclusion: Our study does not show that asthma clinics are more effective than standard general practice care in reducing asthma morbidity. It is uncertain how much of the improvement in outcomes was due to the asthma clinic, the influence of the study itself upon patients and practitioners, or other factors, such as the tendency for a patient's asthma management to improve over time.