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Professor Mike Thomas MB, BS, MRCP, FRCP, PhD

Professor of Primary Care Research

Professor Mike Thomas's photo

Professor Mike Thomas is Professor of Primary Care Research in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton and leads the community-based respiratory research programme.

Research focus in primary care respiratory medicine, particularly asthma care.

Mike is the Chief Investigator of several current and past research programmes in asthma and COPD. By background he is a GP with additional training and expertise in respiratory medicine.

His research interests centre on respiratory disease management in community settings, including the diagnosis and management of asthma and COPD and the assessment of effectiveness of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies in every-day clinical settings. He has a particular interest in ‘real-world’ outcomes and pragmatic clinical research, and has published and lectured widely on these topics.

He is the principle investigator in a number of current respiratory studies. Past roles he has occupied include Chief Medical Officer of Asthma UK, research chairman of the International Primary Care Respiratory Group and associate editor of the Primary Care Respiratory Journal. He has acted as an expert advisor on several UK NICE evaluations in the respiratory field, and was a member of the UK National Review of Asthma Deaths steering committee writing group. He is a current and past member of several European Respiratory Society and American Thoracic Society task forces on diagnosis and outcomes in obstructive lung diseases.


MB BS London, 1982
MRCP London, 1986
FRCP London, 2002
PhD Aberdeen, 2010

Academic and Clinical Positions:

Research interests

  • Primary care respiratory medicine
  • Airways disease
  • Behavioural medicine

PhD supervision

Several past Southampton and external students including international collaborations

Current projects

Breathing RETraining for asthma- trial of Home Exercises for Teenagers (BREATHE4T). NIHR PFPB, 22295, Co-applicant with Prof G Roberts, Southampton. £256,357

Development and evaluation of an online FeNO guided primary care asthma management intervention. NIHR Programme Grant, 2019-2025. RP-PG-6182-0002. Chief Investigator. £2.6 million

Reducing Asthma Attacks in Children using Exhaled Nitric Oxide as a biomarker to inform treatment strategy - a randomised trial (RAACENO). NIHR ‘EME’, Tef: 15/18/14. £1,534,562. Co-applicant. 2016-2020

NIHR ‘Programme Grant for Applied Research’ grant RP-PG-0614-20011."Defining best Management for Adults with Chronic RhinOsinusitis: the MACRO Programme". £3,200,000. Co-applicant and workstream lead.

NIHR ‘Heath Technology Assessment’ grant 13/34/70 At-Risk Registers Integrated into primary care to Stop Asthma crises in the UK (ARRISA-UK): A pragmatic cluster randomised trial with nested economic and process evaluations examining the effects of integrating at-risk asthma registers into primary care with internet-based training and support. £1,460,000. 2014-18. Co-applicant and local PI

Significant recent projects

NIHR ‘Programme Grant for Applied Research’ grant ref RP-PG-1211-20001. Integrating Digital Interventions into Patient Self-Management Support (DIPSS). £1,999,331. Co-applicant and leader of ‘asthma’ workstream.

NIHR ‘Heath Technology Assessment’. Study of the effectiveness of breathing training exercises taught by a physiotherapist by either instructional videos / DVDs / internet download or by face to face sessions in the management of Asthma in adults (BREATHE study). Chief Investigator and grant holder. Collaboration between Aberdeen and Southampton Universities. 2011-2016. £1,260,120

NIHR National School of Primary Care Research Partner grant 194: Evaluating adjuvant Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with COPD: a qualitative exploration. 2013-14. £38,352

NIHR National School of Primary Care Research Partner Grant: Independent determinants of health related quality of life in people with COPD. An exploratory cross sectional postal questionnaire study in stable COPD patients to inform subsequent non- pharmacological interventions 2014-15. £19,976

NIHR National School of Primary Care Research Partner grant. Understanding variations in asthma and COPD outcomes: use of routine clinical data. 2013-14. £34,303

NIHR HTA. Project 10/143/01- The clinical and cost-effectiveness of temporarily quadrupling the dose of inhaled steroid to prevent asthma exacerbations: a pragmatic, randomized, normal-care controlled clinical trial. 2013-1017: £1.87 million. Co-applicant, leader T Harrison, Nottingham

UK Department of Health Policy Research Programme (PR-R3-0212-21002), Risk factors and carriage rates of multiresistant gram negative bacteria including Extended-Spectrum Beta-Lactamase and Carbapenemase Producing Coliforms (ESBLPCs), in different sections of the asymptomatic healthy general population and validation of a innovative molecular test to detect them using bowel cancer faecal occult test (FOBt) screening cards. Co-grant holder with Dr C McNulty, £200K

Please visit the Primary Care website.

Research group

Primary Care, Population Sciences and Medical Education

Affiliate research group

Research project(s)

BREATHE (Breathing Retraining for Asthma Trial of Home Exercise)

Although effective medicinal treatment exists for asthma, many people continue to have distressing symptoms and impaired quality of life. People with asthma have expressed interest in non-drug asthma treatments, particularly in breathing exercises. Several recent studies have shown benefits from a short course of breathing exercises taught by a respiratory physiotherapist for people with asthma who remained symptomatic despite usual treatment. We believe that many NHS patients could potentially benefit from these exercises, but unfortunately, there is currently not enough access to suitable trained physiotherapists able to provide such a service. We propose to provide the same breathing training programme that we have previously shown to be effective when taught 'face-to-face' by a physiotherapist in the form of a DVD, or internet download. Patients will use this in their own home at times convenient to them, in addition to their standard treatment (e.g. with inhalers). We will find out whether this type of instruction is better than the 'usual care' that is currently provided, and whether it is as good as the 'face to face' physiotherapist instruction (which is more expensive and less convenient for patients).


The aim is to investigate the relationship between bronchoconstriction-induced cognitive dysfunction , physiological and psychological markers and perceptions of breathlessness in people with asthma


The DIPSS (Integrating Digital Interventions into Patient Self-Management Support) project has received funding of £2 million from the NIHR to examine patient digital self-management with healthcare professional support in primary care. Our aim is to develop digital behaviour change interventions for asthma and hypertension self-management, which will be examined in feasibility studies and full RCT (hypertension only). Issues surrounding the feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of digital intervention delivery will be explored with patients and healthcare professionals for each condition.

MACRO - Defining best management for adults with chronic rhinosinusitis


Our aim is to provide mindfulness training to patents attending the ‘difficult asthma’ clinic in Southampton, who also have scores on a screening questionnaire indicating significant anxiety levels. We want to see if the course can be delivered (and is acceptable) to these people and to provide information to support a subsequent larger, randomised controlled study.

MOMA Investigating the feasibility of a mobile mindfulness-based digital intervention for patients with asthma

Mindfulness is a type of meditation-based therapy that’s been used to treat a range of health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Currently, few studies have explored how mindfulness can help chronic health conditions like asthma.

SNIFSII - Saline Nasal Irrigation For acute Sinusitis II

Acute sinus infections are one of the commonest infections managed in primary care, Currently GPs prescribe antibiotics to most  patients presenting with sinusitis, the highest of any of the common acute infections presenting in adults, at over 90%.

Chinese Herbal medicine to aid AnTibiotic use reduction in exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (CHAT COPD)

BREATHE4T (Breathing REtraining for Asthma Trial of Home Exercises for Teenagers)

DEFINE: Development and evaluation of a FeNO-guided asthma management intervention in primary care

Departmental responsibilities

Research supervision and management, departmental support


Honorary and advisory positions

Member of NIHR HTA Primary Care, Community & Preventive Interventions (PCCPI) Panel (2015-19 )

Chief Medical Officer, Asthma UK (2007 – 2014)

Research Chairman, International Primary Care Respiratory Group (2011- 2017)

Member of National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guideline development group (GDG) for Asthma (2015- 18)

Member of National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) Quality Standard Topic Expert Group (TEG) for asthma, 2012- 2015

Member of Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Renal, Respiratory and Allergy Expert Advisory Group (CFRRA EAG), CSM (Commission on Human Medicines, UK Department of Health) and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) (2005 – 2012)

Member of Department of Health Asthma Strategy Group (2009-2013)

Member of the UK Department of Health Clinical Group on Home Oxygen delivery (2009-2013)

Member of Independent Primary Care Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) Advisory Committee – Respiratory (NICE) (2010- present)

Member of Department of Health National Asthma Deaths Audit Steering Group (2010- present)

Member of Department of Health Asthma Improvements Grants steering committee (2010- 2013)

Web editor IPCRG (International Primary Care Respiratory Group) (2004 – present)

Asthma publications editor, PCRS (Primary Care Respiratory Society), (2011-  )

Task Force Member, Joint European Respiratory Society/ American Thoracic Society Task Force in Asthma Clinical Outcomes (2006 – 10)

Professional Education Advisor, Education for Health (Open University, UK) 2009 onwards

National Electronic Library of Health –Infectious Diseases advisory panel member (2003 – 2007)

National and International Committee Membership:

  • International Primary Care Respiratory Group Research Committee (2004 – present)
  • General Practice Airways Group Committee (2000-2007) and Research Committee (2003 – present)
  • Respiratory and Allergy Committee Member, Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) (2007 – present)
  • Respiratory Expert Advisory Group for NHS General Practice Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF)


Guideline groups membership

Member European Respiratory Society Task Forces in the diagnosis of asthma in adults (2019- present) and in children (2018 – present)

Member of BTS-SIGN Asthma Guideline Group (Chair of the ‘Non-pharmacological management’ group, former member of ‘diagnosis and monitoring’ and ‘difficult asthma’ groups, 2010-2018

Member of NICE Asthma Diagnosis and Monitoring guideline development group, 2013 - 2018

Member of EPOS (European Position Paper on Rhinosinusitis and Nasal Polyps) guideline group 2009-2019

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Book Chapter

  • Holgate, S. T., & Thomas, M. (2016). Asthma. In R. E. O'Hehir, S. T. Holgate, & A. Sheikh (Eds.), Middleton's Allergy Essentials (pp. 151-204). Elsevier.




March 2016

Professor Mike Thomas featured on BBC's radio 4 Inside Health programme last night, discussing the over-diagnosing and under treatment of asthma. Link to the Inside Health web page here or download the podcast.

November 2014

SPCR study pivotal in leveraging further funding for COPD and co-morbidities, news story from the SPCR (Nov 2014).

July 2014 

Professor Mike Thomas contributes to this report 'Does innovative research for allergy and respiratory diseases in the European Union benefit patients?'  from the EFA event at the European Parliament 17 June 2014.

6 June 2014

Professor Mike Thomas contributes to National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD). Read our story here.

11th February 2014

Professor Mike Thomas, has spoken in an interview with the Daily Mail about the Government not giving people with asthma the same right to free prescriptions as those with other long-term conditions, such as diabetes and epilepsy.

October 2013

An interview with Professor Mike Thomas on the BBC radio 4 programme Inside Health is available to listen to via this link.

Professor Mike Thomas
University of Southampton, Primary Medical Care Aldermoor Health Centre, Aldermoor Close, Southampton SO16 5ST

Room Number : 9590 AHC/121/S2

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