A study monitoring a common winter disease in small children is up and running at two NHS Trusts in the Black Country.
The BronchStart study at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust is helping medics to understand when the virus that causes bronchiolitis is coming to the UK, who it will affect and if it will be more severe. It is led by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
Bronchiolitis is a very common winter disease that normally affects children less than one year old. It is a common reason for parents and carers to bring their children to an Emergency Department (ED) and the frequent need for hospital admission means that paediatric units are at their capacity each winter.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the virus that causes bronchiolitis (Respiratory Syncytial Virus; RSV) disappeared, meaning this winter there have been virtually no cases of bronchiolitis in the United Kingdom. This phenomenon has been observed in many other countries around the world.
Evidence from Australia suggests that as restrictions such as social distancing for COVID-19 are relaxed, bronchiolitis returns, even in the summer. There is also evidence it may affect older children up to two years of age.
It is likely the Australian experience will be mirrored in the UK. The ability to track, anticipate and respond to a surge in bronchiolitis is important so the EDs at New Cross Hospital and Walsall Manor Hospital are reporting, in real time, cases of bronchiolitis that they see and recording essential, but non-identifying, information about them, contributing to information across the UK. This will allow the NHS to be ready if there is a surge.
Travel history is one of the data points being collected, as this will help track where RSV is coming from. The study opened in October 2021 at both Trusts and will close in May 2022.
Walsall Healthcare has collected information on 51 patients against a target of 60 so far, and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust has exceeded its target of 50 patients, with 278 to date.
Radiographer Joanne Davies is leading the study at Walsall Healthcare. She said: “A study like this shows the importance of good patient notes as they make it easier to collect the key information about travel for example.
“Interestingly, the patients identified so far at Walsall broadly reflect the makeup of the local population, which is not always the case.”
Professor Damian Roland, a Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Chief Investigator for the BronchStart study, said: “I’d like to thank Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust for agreeing to run this vitally important research in their emergency departments.
“It has been amazing to see so many hospitals get on board. BronchStart was only developed at the beginning of Spring 2021 and already has over 10,000 recruits thanks to the hard work of teams like those in the West Midlands.”