Thorax 63:778-783 doi:10.1136/thx.2007.084251
  • Asthma

Can lay people deliver asthma self-management education as effectively as primary care based practice nurses?

  1. M R Partridge1,
  2. A-L Caress2,
  3. C Brown1,
  4. J Hennings2,
  5. K Luker2,
  6. A Woodcock3,
  7. M Campbell2
  1. 1
    NHLI Division, Imperial College London, London, UK
  2. 2
    The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  3. 3
    North West Lung Centre, Manchester, UK
  1. Professor M R Partridge, Imperial College London, NHLI Division, Charing Cross Hospital, St Dunstan’s Road, London W6 8RP, UK; m.partridge{at}
  • Received 23 May 2007
  • Accepted 31 January 2008
  • Published Online First 15 February 2008


Objectives: To determine whether well trained lay people could deliver asthma self-management education with comparable outcomes to that achieved by primary care based practice nurses.

Design: Randomised equivalence trial.

Setting: 39 general practices in West London and North West England.

Participants: 567 patients with asthma who were on regular maintenance therapy. 15 lay educators were recruited and trained to deliver asthma self-management education.

Intervention: An initial consultation of up to 45 min offered either by a lay educator or a practice based primary care nurse, followed by a second shorter face to face consultation and telephone follow-up for 1 year.

Main outcome measures: Unscheduled need for healthcare.

Secondary outcome measures: Patient satisfaction and need for courses of oral steroids.

Results: 567 patients were randomised to care by a nurse (n = 287) or a lay educator (n = 280) and 146 and 171, respectively, attended the first face to face educational session. During the first two consultations, management changes were made in 35/146 patients seen by a practice nurse (24.0%) and in 56/171 patients (32.7%) seen by a lay educator. For 418/567 patients (73.7%), we have 1 year data on use of unscheduled healthcare. Under an intention to treat approach, 61/205 patients (29.8%) in the nurse led group required unscheduled care compared with 65/213 (30.5%) in the lay led group (90% CI for difference −8.1% to 6.6%; 95% CI for difference −9.5% to 8.0%). The 90% CI contained the predetermined equivalence region (−5% to +5%) giving an inconclusive result regarding the equivalence of the two approaches. Despite the fact that all patients had been prescribed regular maintenance therapy, 122/418 patients (29.2%) required courses of steroid tablets during the course of 1 year. Patient satisfaction following the initial face to face consultation was similar in both groups.

Conclusions: It is possible to recruit and train lay educators to deliver a discrete area of respiratory care, with comparable outcomes to those seen by nurses.

Trial registration number: NCT00129987


  • ▸ The appendix is published online only at

  • MR Partridge and A-L Caress contributed equally to the project.

  • Funding: This study was funded by the BUPA Foundation.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: Ethics approval was obtained.