Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

Kathryn Ferris

Project: Optimising inhaler technique and asthma self-management in children and young people

PhD overview

PhD Title: Optimising inhaler technique and asthma self-management in children and young people

Funded by: Asthma UK as part of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research and Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC) Charitable funds (RBHSC Research Fellowship)

Supervisors: Dr Dara O'Donoghue, Dr Paddy McCrossan and Dr James Paton

Based at: Queen's University Belfast


Kathryn Ferris
Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research PhD Student, Kathryn Ferris

Poor inhaler technique and adherence to inhaled medication is prevalent among children with asthma, and this has been the case for over 40 years. There is an urgent need to address this to attain and sustain good inhaler technique and medication adherence. If this can be achieved, it is anticipated that this will reduce the risk of future asthma attacks and translate into improved clinical outcomes for children and young people with asthma.

The overarching aim of this PhD research project is to explore ways to optimise a care pathway that results in children and young people with asthma being better trained in the basics of asthma care and better able to apply self-management at the earliest possible stage. To do this, we will use the population that is newly referred to the Safe Asthma Discharge Care Pathway (SADCP) as a suitable group to study. Once we have established this optimised pathway in the secondary care setting, this research group plans to translate this to the primary care setting where there is an even larger population with an unmet need.

In order to address the issues outlined above, we plan a mixed-methods study design.

Scoping reviews on ‘how to score inhaler technique’ and ‘how children are taught to use a personalised asthma action plan’ will be performed. A pilot randomised study will be performed on the introduction of video-directly observed therapy to the already established SADCP in order to determine whether we can accelerate the time to the mastery of correct inhaler technique. This pilot study will include a concurrent qualitative analysis to investigate the experience of service users and a health economic analysis to determine whether this method can be cost-effective and potentially applicable to the wider healthcare community. We will also conduct a qualitative exploration of potential reasons for poor inhaler technique, incorrect implementation of personalised asthma action plans and potential barriers encountered.

Lastly, using a feasibility study design we will implement a programme of training for primary care healthcare staff to teach them the skills required to provide optimal inhaler technique and asthma self-management skills for children and young people.

About me

I am a paediatric Doctor working in Northern Ireland.

I graduated from Queen's University Belfast (QUB) in 2012. I was successfully awarded an Academic Foundation 2 (AF2) post within paediatrics. I started my paediatric training in August 2014. I have progressed along the academic pathway from AF2 into an Academic Clinical Fellow post (ACF) from August 2019 to August 2021. From September 2019 I have been a QUB Clinical Academic Training Programme (CATP) representative and I am remaining on the CATP committee as a Clinical Research Fellow representative this year.

In January 2021 I completed the Queen's University Belfast Postgraduate Diploma in clinical education. I am currently undertaking a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health special interest module in Paediatric Allergy. My career goal is to be an academic paediatrician with a specialist interest in Paediatric Asthma and Allergy.

I want to incorporate my passion for medical education with my clinical interests. I have had excellent training and experience in delivering clinical education to date. In September 2018 I was appointed as the QUB lead/ coordinator for SIM baby (an interprofessional education event using high fidelity simulated paediatric mannequins to develop paediatric clinical skills and knowledge) for the 4th year healthcare of children module. I co-lead a student selected component module in QUB and I have previously held the role of teaching fellow in Western Health and Social Care Trust.

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This PhD is funded by Asthma UK as part of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research and Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC) Charitable funds (RBHSC Research Fellowship)