Air pollution levels added to patient's postcodes

16 Feb 2023, 6:15 a.m.

A photo of Great Ormond Street Hospital's entrance.

Air pollution levels for patient’s postcodes have been added to their medical records to help families understand the risk in their local area. 

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) has teamed up with Imperial College London, which collected the data from across Great Britain, to make the average annual pollution rates for each of the patient’s postcode easily available.

Clinicians can compare the patient’s postcode levels to those recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), to explore any risk this may pose.

Why is this happening?

In December 2020, Ella Adoo Kissi Debrah, became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate. This was a result of years of campaigning by her mum Rosamund to have a new inquest, following the nine-year-old's death in 2013.

In a report to prevent future deaths, the coroner said that clinicians must do more to warn families of the dangers of air pollution.

Last year, the chief medical officer Christopher Whitty, also made recommendations on air pollution.

For the NHS he said: “The training of healthcare staff should include the health effects of air pollution and how to minimise these, including communication with patients.”

How does this help clinical teams work with patients and families?

The clinical team will be able to see air pollution data for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) and nitrogen dioxide on each patient’s electronic medical record, as well as the World Health Organisation guidelines for these particles, and the rates at GOSH.

There are also links to further information, training and advice on how our clinicians can speak to families about the issues.

The training and the data will help our clinicians consider whether air pollution is a factor in their child’s illness, how it affects them, and if there are steps that can be taken to help.

What else is GOSH doing?

In 2019 GOSH launched the first ever Clean Air Hospital Framework to improve air quality in and around the hospital. It also launched Play Street, as part of this goal. In 2021, we became the first London hospital to declare a Climate and Health Emergency and have set ourselves challenging Net Zero targets to drive us forward. Over 30 members of GOSH staff also cycled to Glasgow to coincide with the COP26 climate meeting as part of Ride for Their Lives.

What happens next?

Now that the air pollution data has been added to the medical records, training will be rolled out across GOSH.

Mark Hayden, Nicola Wilson and Johanna Andersson, who led the project at GOSH to add the air pollution data to medical records, hope to work with other hospitals to add air pollution to more patients’ records.

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