Research into asthma deaths

A national review across the UK had been launched to understand why each year around 1,200 people of all ages die from asthma.

Previous research has suggested that preventable factors can be identified in up to 90% of cases. The aim of the project is to better understand why so that recommendations can be made to help prevent asthma deaths in the future. The project will engage both health professionals and family members in order to explore the individual circumstances and care provided before death.

The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) and is being carried out by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), in partnership with a consortium of professional and patient bodies concerned with asthma.

The project aims to review all deaths across the UK from asthma in children and adults for one year, beginning in February 2012. Hospitals and GPs will be asked to participate, and all confirmed cases of death from asthma will be included in an in-depth multidisciplinary confidential enquiry. This UK-wide review will provide evidence to influence clinical guidelines, policy and practice and in time help reduce the number of preventable asthma deaths.

Data collection will not begin until next year but the partners want to ensure the greatest possible awareness of the project before it begins to encourage participation and understanding. Health professionals are encouraged to visit the website register to receive regular updates on the project or to find out how they can become involved.

Dr Mark L Levy. Clinical Lead for NRAD said:

"Most asthma deaths are associated with preventable factors, and it has been shown that aspects of UK and other international asthma guidelines are not being followed in a majority of cases. Recent research showed little improvement in certain aspects of care over the last 50 years. These include underuse of life saving corticosteroids in a third of the fatal attacks; inadequate routine monitoring and follow-up by patients and health professionals in 20-30% of deaths and underuse of measurements of lung function in a fifth of fatal cases.

"This project offers an opportunity for patients, their families and health care providers, to raise awareness of the preventable factors associated with asthma deaths, and to take the necessary action to help reduce the number of avoidable asthma deaths in the United Kingdom."