University of Dundee

MRC DTP iCASE: Digital healthcare solutions for drug related deaths

Extended  closing date for this project now 30.05.21

Applications for this round of recruitment are open to candidates who meet the following eligibility criteria –

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

Further information on eligibility and residency requirements can be found in the UKRI Training Grant Terms & Conditions (found here: and accompanying guidance documentation (found here:

Supervisors: Prof John F Dillon and Dr Andrew Radley - School of Medicine

Recreational drug use and addiction is common and risks death. In 2018 Scotland recorded the highest rate of drug-related deaths (DRDs) since records began, with 1187 deaths [1]. Within Scotland, Dundee City has the highest average rate of DRDs [2]. Scotland-wide, data shows over half of fatalities had previously experienced a non-fatal overdose (NFOD) [3]. The Scottish Government suggest a variety of strategies and interventions is needed to respond to this crisis [3]. The commonest drug class used are opioids, often used in combination with gabapentinoids and benzodiazepines [2]. The mode of death is usually by respiratory depression. A variety of measures are being trialled to prevent the crisis point of respiratory depression due to drug use, once that happens intervention with a reversal agent naloxone is lifesaving, but detecting that event and triggering a response in time is an unmet need.

Altair Medical’s Respmeter is designed to monitor breathing in real-time, alerting others where life-threatening changes occur. This level of monitoring is normally only available in hospitals where clinical staff monitor breathing. Altair’s technology uses wearable monitoring devices and Artificial Intelligence to accurately monitor large numbers of patients in any location at any time.

This project has 3 phases. Phase 1 will collect respiratory monitoring data from a cohort of patients attending needle exchanges and OST clinics, this data will be analysed to define normal parameters and trigger points for emergency calls. Phase 2 which will be conducted in parallel, using focus groups and surveys to co-design the clinical intervention. Phase 3 will pilot interventions using the device in clinical situations.  The candidate will be part of a team developing a potentially life saving intervention. They will gain skills in data analysis, clinical trials and mixed methods clinical research.

The project will be developed as an iCASE partnership in collaboration with Altair Medical Limited.

  1. National Record of Scotland (2019). Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2018. Accessed online on 15.05.2020 at
  2. Information Services Division ISD – NHS National Services Scotland, (2018). The National Drug-Related Deaths Database (Scotland) Report Analysis of Deaths occurring in 2015 and 2016. National Services Scotland.
  3. Scottish Government, (2020). Evidence-Based Strategies for Preventing Drug-Related Deaths in Scotland. Our Emergency Response. Accessed online on 14.05.2020 at evidence-based-strategies-preventing-drug-related-deaths-scotland-emergency-response[1972].pdf