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Gas Safety Trust supports research into medical awareness of CO poisoning
Published:  28 March, 2016

The Gas Safety Trust (GST) will continue to fund a survey being undertaken by the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS), which will help to gauge healthcare professionals' awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, following an initial pilot project.

A 2011 All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) report highlighted the challenges faced by healthcare professionals in diagnosis and treatment.

According to the Department of Health, over 200 people go to hospital with suspected CO poisoning every year in the UK. Around 40 people die from CO exposure every year, but the report said relatively little is known about its epidemiology.

The NPIS Annual Report 2014/15 reported data from 479 telephone enquiries that related to CO exposure involving a total of 682 patients. This study uses the NPIS's TOXBASE online resource and its 24-hour telephone advice service to gather information from users, which will be used to understand how diagnosis was made and if cases were confirmed.

Data provided to the NPIS by a telephone caller will be collected and then a follow-up questionnaire sent to gain further data. At the same time, enquirers accessing the TOXBASE CO entry will be presented with a simple pop-up box asking whether they were seeing a patient with suspected CO poisoning and for a contact address. A questionnaire will then be sent to these healthcare professionals for additional information. The results of this exercise will be analysed, with the aim of improving how CO poisoning is diagnosed.

GST chair Chris Bielby said: "The Gas Safety Trust remains concerned about the challenges for healthcare professionals in diagnosing CO poisoning, given that its symptoms mimic those of other common illnesses. We are hopeful that this study will improve our understanding and help identify better ways to help doctors recognise it when patients present themselves."

Aravindan Veiraiah, consultant clinical toxicologist with the NPIS, added: "The NPIS are excited to be working with the Gas Safety Trust to study the scale of CO poisoning in the UK. As a result of this project we are able to design the best online surveys to capture data from TOXBASE users about CO exposures, including in cases where the only reason for healthcare contact was that a CO alarm had been triggered at the patient's home. This project has also made it possible for us to follow many more suspected CO exposures. It is expected that our learning about the circumstances of CO exposure, the severity of poisoning, and outcomes of any treatment will inform future measures to reduce harm from CO poisoning in the UK."