Public Health England’s Coroners’ Carbon Monoxide testing pilot study commences

For immediate release - Tuesday 11 October 2016

Public Health England’s (PHE) carbon monoxide (CO) pilot study aiming to develop a protocol for coroners to test for CO at post mortem and funded by the Gas Safety Trust (GST), is set to commence.

The 2011 All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) report identified a key role for coroners to support increased detection of CO poisoning in England and Wales. The report recommended that “the Government should ensure that all coroners’ post-mortems routinely test for carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) levels”.

The study will take the important first steps towards obtaining a more complete estimate of the number of CO deaths by testing at post-mortem.

This pilot is to be carried out before a national data collection exercise can be undertaken so the procedure can be defined, developed and implemented; the aim is to establish a protocol for testing and reporting of CO poisoning at post-mortem in England and Wales.

Chris Bielby, Gas Safety Trust Chairman said:

We are thrilled that this pilot is due to commence as we have been long been seeking to determine a more accurate number of fatalities caused by CO poisoning in England and Wales. It is generally agreed that CO poisoning may be under-diagnosed by both medics and coroners due to its characteristics.

The only way to properly investigate this is for CO levels to be tested at post-mortem and we are hopeful this pilot will develop a protocol that will allow us to reach the true scale of the problem in England and Wales.”

Dr Giovanni Leonardi, Head of the Environmental Epidemiology Group at PHE for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said:

This is an important pilot study which will develop a method for establishing how often CO poisoning is being missed by clinicians and the impact this has on CO being identified as a cause of death. We will need to share this information with the coroners before they will consider wider testing for CO at post-mortem.

"We will also need to assess the extra burden wider testing would have on staff, including pathologists and laboratory workers.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

About Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas formed during the incomplete combustion of any carbon-based or fossil fuel (e.g. gas, coal, oil, wood, charcoal etc.) which happens when there is insufficient oxygen caused by poor ventilation.

About Public Health England
Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. We do this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. We are an executive agency of the Department of Health, and are a distinct delivery organisation with operational autonomy to advise and support government, local authorities and the NHS in a professionally independent manner.

About the Gas Safety Trust
The Gas Safety Trust (GST), established in 2005 as a registered charitable body, has become the UK’s leading fuel safety charity with the key objectives of further improving fuel safety for the public and industry throughout the UK and reducing the incidents of death and serious injury from carbon monoxide exposure. GST is currently seeking grant applicants via www.gassafetytrust.org. The GST is generously funded by the gift aided profits of CORGI Services Limited www.corgiservices.com.

About the GST CO Portal
The Gas Safety Trust (GST) has created an online carbon monoxide (CO) portal, which is the central repository for data and information relating to CO in the UK. The portal was launched in January 2015. The Portal has three main sections Legislation and Standards, which include information on Regulations, Standards, Guidance and Codes of Practice, Academic References, which is a searchable reference library of academic papers relating to CO and Data and Documents, which contains reports and other general information on CO www.coportal.org.

For further information please contact:

Adrian McConnell                   

Trust Manager

Gas Safety Trust

T: 020 7706 5111
M: 07792 219649
E: adrian@gassafetytrust.org
W: www.gassafetytrust.org 
Follow us: @GasSafetyTrust

Visit the new GST CO Portal here.