Asthma manLeading researcher Dr. Andrew Wilson from the University of East Anglia has been awarded £1.7million in funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), enabling the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research to identify people most at risk of an asthma attack in order to reduce the high number of avoidable asthma deaths.

This research comes at a critical time following the publication in May of the National Review of Asthma Deaths by the Royal College of Physicians.

Three people die of asthma every day in the UK and the National Review identified that as many as two thirds of these deaths caused by asthma could have been avoided. In many cases the warning signs were ignored and more than two thirds of people hospitalised in the month before they died didn’t get properly checked up afterwards. Past attacks are a clear risk factor for future attacks and everyone who is hospitalised due to their asthma should see their GP within 48 hours of leaving hospital; however Asthma UK’s Compare Your Care report 2013 discovered that three quarters (74%) of people with asthma did not have a follow up appointment.

Dr Wilson’s research will examine whether introducing a register of people at risk of an attack and training medical staff to provide these patients with on-going, specialist support will reduce their likelihood of being hospitalised by asthma or suffering a potentially life threatening asthma attack.

It features as a key part of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, a collaborative partnership of 13 of the UK’s leading academic organisations focusing on addressing the practical problems people with asthma face every day. This includes halving the development time of much needed new medicines and treatments through clinical trials to lead directly to improved care.

Dr. Wilson, based at the University of East Anglia says: “Identifying and targeting care to patients most at risk of asthma attacks and developing methods to deal with the variable standard of care in the UK are important national treatment strategies. Previous research supported by Asthma UK shows that this approach halved the number of hospitalisations and was cost effective.”

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK said: “The UK has the worst death rate amongst OECD countries for respiratory disease and every 10 seconds someone is having a life-threatening asthma attack. Despite this, asthma research is chronically underfunded so we look forward to working with Dr Wilson on this groundbreaking research which could revolutionise asthma care and reduce the shockingly high numbers of people dying from this common condition.”