London Mayor launches UK’s first targeted air quality alert for healthcare professionals

Published: 1-Mar-2024

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched the first healthcare air pollution alert of its kind in the UK

Developed by the Mayor, NHS England and other partners, the new alert will directly notify clinicians in GP practices and emergency departments across the capital via email about high and very high pollution episodes.

The new alert will help recipients increase their patients’ awareness about the health impacts of air pollution and better support those at greater risk, such as adults and children with heart or lung problems.

It comes as The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that air pollution is the single biggest environmental threat to human health. 

In London, asthma is one of the top three causes of emergency admission to hospital each year for children, underlining the need to better support health professionals in communicating the adverse effects of air pollution to patients.

The new alert has been informed by the best available evidence and extensive engagement with a broad range of stakeholders and experts, including: academics, clinical networks, third sector partners, behavioural scientists, ethicists, and clinicians. 

Air pollution is the single biggest environmental threat to human health

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We know that filthy air can have devastating effects on our health, and it’s vital Londoners know how they can best protect themselves.London’s healthcare professionals are trusted voices in their communities and play a powerful role in increasing awareness around the risks of air pollution."

"By launching the UK’s first targeted healthcare air quality alert, we’re empowering London’s frontline clinicians to stay informed and better support their patients,” Khan continued.

“Together, we’re ensuring that every Londoner has the knowledge and resources to protect themselves and their loved ones from the health effects of toxic air pollution, to build a better London for everyone,” Khan concluded.

Dr Chris Streather, Medical Director and Chief Clinical Information Officer, NHS England London, said: “This new alert system is important step towards educating and protecting our patients against the negative effects of air pollution."

"By delivering targeted air quality alerts to London’s healthcare professionals, we are empowering our frontline NHS staff to provide informed care and support for our communities' wellbeing,” Streather concluded.

In London, asthma is one of the top three causes of emergency admission to hospital each year for children

The new alert adds to London’s air quality alert system the Mayor launched in 2016 to help Londoners manage their exposure to toxic air episodes. 

Since the Environmental Research Group, currently based at Imperial College London, was appointed London’s duty forecaster in 2018, 19 high and 217 moderate pollution alerts have been issued, enabling Londoners to increase their awareness of air pollution and take steps to protect their health.

The alert system uses forecasts from experts at Imperial College London to notify Londoners, schools and boroughs, and now GPs and emergency departments, the day before and during the worst episodes of air pollution. 

High pollution alerts are also already displayed at public locations across London, including on all bus stop countdown signs, as well as on the Underground and on roadside signs.

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