Work has begun on a UK-wide review of asthma deaths designed to help reduce this type of death in the future.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), in partnership with a consortium of professional and patient bodies concerned with asthma, has started work on the National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) across the whole UK.
An estimated 1,200 people die in the UK every year as a result of asthma and previous research has suggested that preventable factors can be identified in up to 90% of cases.
The aim of the project, the first of its kind to cover the whole UK, is to understand why people of all ages die from asthma so that lessons can be learnt and recommendations can be made to help prevent deaths from asthma in the future.
The project, which has been commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP), will review all UK deaths from asthma in children and adults for one year, beginning in February 2012.
GPs and hospitals will be asked to participate, and all confirmed cases of death from asthma will be included in an in-depth multidisciplinary confidential enquiry.
The RCP said that by engaging with health professionals and family members, the project would explore the individual circumstances and care provided before death.
The UK-wide review will provide evidence to influence clinical guidelines, policy and practice.
Although data collection will not begin until next year, the partners want to ensure high awareness of the project before it begins to encourage participation.
Health professionals are being encouraged to visit the NRAD web pages to register to receive regular updates on the project and to find out how they can become involved.
The partners include Asthma UK, RCGP, British Thoracic Society, National Ambulance Service, Royal College of Nursing, and the College of Emergency Medicine.
Dr Mark 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.”