There was widespread coverage yesterday (Thursday) of the government’s response to the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report – with articles in The Guardian, The Times, The BBC, Evening Standard and The Daily Mail. Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, Ella’s mother, was also interviewed on Channel 4 News yesterday evening.
The Coroner’s inquest, which concluded in December 2020, found that air pollution was a significant contributory factor to the tragic death of Ella in 2013. Yesterday, the government issued its response, outlining the key actions that will be taken to improve air quality both in the short and long-term to protect the health of vulnerable groups
The response set out that:
- Immediate action will be taken to increase public awareness about air pollution, including a review of existing sources of information to include more specific messaging for different groups. The Government will also look at working with health charities on longer-term campaigns aimed at vulnerable groups.
- An additional £6 million will be funded to the Air Quality Grant scheme. Part of this will be dedicated to improving public awareness in local communities about the risks of air pollution and encouraging collaboration with local public health bodies to provide guidance to vulnerable groups about the health impacts from air pollution and the steps they can take to minimise their exposure.
- The Government will have further discussions with broadcasters, social media companies and app providers to identify ways to spread air quality information more widely with clear advice people can act on. It will also consider the scope and effectiveness of establishing a new national SMS alert system.
- NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) will continue work on a more systematic approach to asthma management, including identifying environmental triggers and promoting more personalised care for patients. The NHSEI Children and Young People’s (CYP) Transformation Programme will set out evidence-based interventions to help children, young people, families and carers, to control and reduce the risk of asthma attacks.
- A public consultation on new legal targets for PM2.5 and other pollutants will launch early next year, with the aim of setting new targets in legislation by October 2022. The Government has used the World Health Organisation guidelines on PM2.5 to inform its ambitions in shaping these targets.
- In addition to a simple concentration target on PM2.5, the Government is developing a more sophisticated population exposure reduction target. This aims to drive reductions not just in pollution “hotspots”, but in all areas. In setting these new targets, there will also be a commitment to significantly increase the monitoring network to capture more detailed air quality information across the country.
The Government is also ready to work with medical groups such as the nursing Royal Colleges to support work they may be considering to better engage their members including changes to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“Ella’s death was a tragedy and I would like to pay tribute to her family and friends who have campaigned so tirelessly on this issue, and continue to do so.
“Today’s response is part of a much wider cross-Government effort to drive forward tangible and long-lasting changes to improve the air we breathe, as well as doing more to inform the public about the risks.
“Air pollution levels have reduced significantly since 2010, with emissions of fine particulate matter falling by 11%, while emissions of nitrogen oxides are at their lowest level since records began. We know that there is more to do which is why we are setting new legally-binding targets on particulate matter pollution and building on our Clean Air Strategy to accelerate action to clean up our air.”