PCRS undertakes a "Spotlight on..." different research centres across the UK. In the current research newsletter we provide a focus on the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research written by Susan Buckingham
What is the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research?
As a UK-wide virtual research centre, we bring together world-leading researchers from all over the UK, with an un-rivalled patient advisory group, embedded clinicians, education and implementation specialists. Professor Aziz Sheikh from the University of Edinburgh and Professor Chris Griffiths from Queen Mary University of London lead the Centre.
We have around 100 academic members, and over 100 members of the public engaged through our patient advisory groups.
We work closely with Asthma UK, as our core funder, and the Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma – who focus on lab based research, complementing our focus on applied research in asthma.
Where are you based?
Although led jointly from the University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary University of London we have members across many UK universities – from as far north as Aberdeen, as far west as Belfast and across to East Anglia.
Current partner organisations include University of Edinburgh, Queen Mary University of London, Cardiff University, Imperial College London, King’s College London, NHS Education for Health, Queen’s University Belfast, Swansea University, University College London, University of Aberdeen, University of Bristol, University of East Anglia, University of Manchester and University of Sheffield with affiliate organisations including University of Exeter, University of Leeds, University of Oxford and University of Southampton.
What sort of research do you do?
We work collaboratively on three key programmes of research – aligned with Asthma UK’s goals, identified as areas of greatest potential to make a real difference to people affected by asthma. Our three programmes seek to identify, understand and implement interventions that will: encourage good asthma control; reduce asthma exacerbations and prevent asthma deaths; and help to maximise the benefits of treatment.
Our research focuses on developing, testing and implementing interventions which have the capacity to achieve substantial, sustained reductions in asthma morbidity and mortality.
We also have five strategic platforms which are building resources to support future research. This includes our training platform, methodology hub, observatory – bringing together data on asthma from across the UK – and a database of people with asthma who would be willing to take part in research studies, making recruitment easier and more successful.
Can you tell us about some recent awards or outputs?
Current flagship projects include ARRISA-UK (an NIHR funded randomised controlled trial of GP practice staff training and high risk patient identification and flagging to reduce the occurrence of severe asthma related events), IMP2ART (an NIHR funded programme seeking to help general practices embed supported self-management into routine asthma care) and the CHILL study (another NIHR funded study which will test whether policies to improve air quality, such as London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), are associated with improved growth of children’s lungs and reduced chest symptoms).
Can you tell us about one of these in more detail?
The ARRISA-UK study is led by Professor Andrew Wilson at the University of East Anglia. The team recognised that certain asthma patients are at greater risk of being admitted or dying than others and that targeting intensive support and care to these patients improves their health.
They ran a pilot study that identified ‘at-risk’ patients within GP practices and used computer-based systems to create pop-up alerts when these patients contact the practice. Practice staff were trained on what to do when they see the alert.
This didn’t reduce the total number of attacks but it did reduce the number of hospital admissions as more patients appeared to receive appropriate treatment for their asthma.
Based on these promising findings the team are now undertaking a nationwide study, involving 275 GP practices across the UK, to confirm that we can improve the care of these patients without costing the NHS too much or affecting the care of other asthma patients within GP practices.
And tell us something quirky about your group?
The whole centre gets together once a year for our annual scientific meeting. We visit a different city each year – it’s a great opportunity to meet face-to-face as a lot of our collaborative work happens remotely. Core members of our Patient Advisory Group provide valuable input at these meetings, and it’s always great to see everyone. So far we have visited Oxford, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol. In March 2019 we shall be in London to celebrate our 5th anniversary.