RCPCH response to the coroner following the tragic death of Ella Adoo Kissi-Debrah

In June 2021 we were asked to respond to concerns raised by the coroner regarding the sad and untimely death of a nine-year-old girl in London, which was found to be contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution.

You can read the Coroner's report to prevent future deaths (PDF), and our full response is available to download below.

At RCPCH, our political advocacy and communications work seeks to highlight the impact of poor air quality on child health outcomes. We will continue to lobby local and national governments on actions needed to improve air quality and prevent future deaths.

These are some examples.

  • The RCPCH curriculum includes a domain on health promotion, requiring all paediatricians to demonstrate capabilities around understanding the environment, economic and cultural contexts of health and healthcare illness on illness prevention. Paediatricians who sub-specialise in paediatric respiratory medicine will cover these capabilities in greater depth.
  • The College is working with the children’s team at NHS England/Improvement and Health Education England to develop asthma competencies for child health professionals and carers. Our own educational course on improving asthma care considers the wider determinants of outcomes in asthma for children.
  • We recognise that everyone has a responsibility for reducing air pollution and have urged paediatricians to be aware of our position on outdoor air quality, and use it to inform patients and their families of the health impacts and encourage and support them to make positive changes to improve air quality and reduce their exposure to air pollution. We also ask that paediatricians act as role models for others and make personal changes to reduce air pollution where possible, and that they encourage change within their workplace and the wider NHS. Finally, we ask that paediatricians are made aware of local and national initiatives to improve air quality and signpost families to relevant resources.
  • We are committed to leading the way to adopt ways of working and policies that support improvements in outdoor air quality. In October 2020 we joined many other organisations in declaring a climate emergency, highlighting the detrimental impacts of air pollution on younger people. Climate change has been identified as a priority in our new College strategy for 2021-24, and we are in the process of establishing a comprehensive programme of work which will be driven by our members. 
  • The RCPCH is a member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and continues to work in partnership with others to advocate for responses to climate change that protects and promotes public health. 
  • We welcome the NHS Long Term Plan’s commitment to renew its NHS prevention programme and recognise the opportunities brought forward by the upcoming Health and Social Care Bill where integrated care systems (ICS) will provide the basis for health organisations and local authorities to improve upstream prevention of avoidable illness.