A&E units have become like warzones, top doctor warns
NHS casualty units have become like “warzones,” with medics fighting a losing battle to cope with an increasing tide of patients, one of Britain’s most senior Accident & Emergency doctors has warned.
The comments came as new figures show the number of patients waiting more than four hours in casualty units has almost doubled in just two years.
Dr Cliff Mann, from the College of Emergency Medicine, said Britain’s emergency care system had now reached “a tipping point” – with many A&E units simply overwhelmed by the numbers of patients arriving at their doors .
He said the rising demand for services had combined with a recruitment crisis as medics abandoned careers in emergency care because the pressures were now so extreme.
The statistics show that since January, 406,000 people have waited more than four hours to be treated in A&E or admitted to hospital – a 90 per cent rise on the 215,000 who waited as long during the same period in 2011.
Hundreds of patients have operations on wrong body part
Hundreds of patients have suffered from major medical blunders such as an operation on the wrong part of the body, or a medical instrument left inside them after surgery, an investigation has found.
New NHS figures show that in the past four years, more than 750 patients have suffered after preventable mistakes in England’s hospitals.
In total, more than 320 patients who underwent surgery were left with medical instruments inside them afterwards. A further 214 patients underwent surgery on the wrong part of the body.
The incidents are so serious that they are categorised by the Department of Health as “never events” – meaning there is no excuse for them to ever occur.
Further cases which emerged in a BBC investigation included 73 cases in which tubes used for feeding and medication were inserted into patients’ lungs, meaning the patient was at risk of drowing on food and fluids and 58 cases when the wrong implants or prostheses were fitted.
A routine gall bladder operation left Donna Bowett suffering constant abdominal pain after surgeons left a seven-inch pair of forceps inside her body.
When doctors attempted to determine the source of her pain, the nurse, 42, was put through excruciating agony during an MRI scan at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire, as the magnets attempted to pull the metal object from her body.
Ian Cohen, a medical negligence solicitor and head of medical negligence at Goodmans Law, based in Liverpool, said the whole system of reporting “never events” was flawed.
“I think the figures are shocking,” he said. “They really are the tip of the iceberg.
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Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records
A controversial deal between tech giant Google and the National Health Service (NHS) will allow artificial intelligence units access to 1.6 million confidential medical records. Since 2014, Google has partnered with several scientists in an attempt to understand human health, but a new report reveals the data gathering goes far beyond what was originally anticipated.
According to documents obtained by the New Scientist, the data sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust gives access to the sensitive healthcare data of millions of NHS patients. The chilling and wide-reaching deal allows DeepMind access to the medical records of the 1.6 million people passing annually through the three London hospitals owned by the Trust — Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free.
The Google-owned A.I. firm announced in February it was working with the NHS to build an app called Streams — intended to help hospitals monitor patients with kidney disease. However, the new information has revealed that the extent of the data being shared goes much further and includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, records of the location and status of patients, and even logs of who visits them and when.
Results of pathology and radiology tests are also shared, as is information from critical care and accident and emergency departments. In addition, DeepMind’s access to the centralised records of all NHS hospital treatments in the U.K. means the tech company can access historical data from the last five years, all while receiving a continuous stream of new data.
At the same time, DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which uses hospital data streams to build tools to carry out analysis and support diagnostic decisions. The New Scientist explained how it works:
Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.
While the Royal Free has not yet responded to the question of what — if any — opt-out mechanisms are available to patients, the New Scientist suggests this is unlikely to be a straightforward process. Despite the agreement stating Google cannot use the data in any other part of the company’s business, many will be seriously wary of the access the online tech giant now has to the confidential data of millions of people.
As the New Scientist wrote:
Data mining is the name of the game in the burgeoning field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and there’s no company in the world better at that than Google.
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