News and events

Pictured: The Shortlisted Respiratory Team at the Great North Children's Hospital

Childhood respiratory experts in Newcastle shortlisted in BMJ Awards


Respiratory specialists at Newcastle’s Great North Children’s Hospital have been named as finalists for a prestigious British Medical Journal Award .

Shortlisted for the “Innovation in Quality Improvement Team” category, this accolade recognises the multi-disciplinary team’s innovative and hugely successful approach to ensuring excellent asthma care for all, and preventing avoidable deaths through a unique, region-wide collaboration called BREATHE.

In just four years BREATHE has seen a reduction in emergency hospital admissions due to asthma by 29% and an increase from 5% to 53% in the uptake of personalised asthma action plans (PAAP)  in primary care.

Dr Jen Townshend, a consultant paediatrician specialising in respiratory care at GNCH explains: “We may have made great progress in the treatment of respiratory conditions but asthma still kills people of all ages, including young people, every year. In fact, in 2012, 14% of the 195 asthma deaths were young people under the age of 19.”

A National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) carried out in 2014 showed significant avoidable factors including failure to ensure simple interventions known to improve asthma control were delivered, and lack of  education for both health-professionals and patients.

Dr Townshend continues: “We know from focus groups we’ve held that local families feel frustrated at the lack of available information, and young people feel dis-empowered and fearful of situations where adults were inadequately informed, for example at school.

“We knew we had to do something to get this right for our young patients.”

In response, a regional paediatric partnership with representatives from primary to tertiary care was set up in 2014. The aims of the partnership were to raise awareness, improve education and support for those caring for children with asthma, empowering them to self-manage, and to create seamless links between primary and tertiary care.

Working alongside this partnership, specialists at GNCH developed a multi-faceted approach called ‘BREATHE’ – Beating REgional Asthma Through Health Education.

BREATHE developed and delivered a number of initiatives between 2016 and 2018:

  • An online resource was launched for health-professionals, families, young people and schools, providing standardised documentation, educational resources and tools to promote excellent asthma care
  • Regular asthma study mornings aimed at and attended by over 110 health-professionals
  • A local nurse led ‘one stop shop’ clinic, taking referrals from primary and secondary care, offering one appointment where annual reviews, PAAPs, education and trigger reviews could be carried out
  • A local ‘asthma discharge bundle’ ensuring key recommendations from NRAD and NICE were delivered
  • A local asthma service, ensuring higher risk patients were reviewed by a specialist following discharge
  • Cascade training for school health teams

The ultimate goal was to reduce unplanned hospital attendances and reduce risk of future deaths from asthma. Since BREATHE clinicians have seen a reduction in unplanned paediatric hospital attendances due to asthma in Newcastle by 29% alongside an increase in region-wide asthma attendances by an average of 10%, and an increase in the uptake of personalised asthma action plans from 5% to 53%.

The ‘Beat Asthma’ website (a finalist in last year’s ‘Bright Ideas in Health Awards’) has been viewed worldwide over 15,000 times since it was launched, and its associated paperwork has been adopted by all trusts across the region and by some trusts nationwide.

Asthma control test scores in patients attending the ‘one stop shop’ clinic have improved by an average of 6 points just 3 months after the intervention, and asthma Discharge bundle dissemination after acute admissions has become integrated into routine practice locally and is occurring in 80% of cases.

These are fantastic results that everyone involved in BREATHE can, quite rightly, be very proud of.

Dr Mike McKean, clinical director for the Great North Children’s Hospital says: “We’re thrilled to see BREATHE shortlisted for a national award this year. The huge success of this major piece of collaborative work is demonstrably clear for all to see.

“I’d love to see this North East partnership scoop the award in April but the real winners are the patients and their families who are reaping the benefits of this fantastic work.”

Good luck to the team at the BMJ Awards on 24th April 2019.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.