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“Carebots” could take over from NHS medics to save £13bn a year

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"Carebots" could take over from NHS medics to save £13bn a year

The review, carried out by the former Labour health minister and by former Conservative health minister, Lord Prior, sets out a future where robots and artificial-intelligence (AI) based systems are used to assess and diagnose patients, as well as increasingly used in surgery, and assisting with meals, transportation and rehabilitation.

The findings, released by think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research, say “carebots” could be used to keep frail elderly people in independent at home, encouraging their owners to wash, dress, eat and drink.

They could also take on more maintenance of the home, freeing up those paid to care to spend more time doing it, the study suggests.

Its projections – the first detailed analysis to examine such trends – forecast that almost a third of work currently done by nurses and GPs, and nearly one quarter of the tasks done by hospital doctors could be done by robots or AI systems.

And it also says NHS staff should be promised to a “right to retrain” if technology renders  their skills obsolete.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce an increased funding package for the NHS, in the approach to its 70th anniversary, on July 5th.

The new review, led by Lord Darzi, a former Labour health minister, assisted by Lord Prior, a former Conservative health minister, follows their calls for a penny to be put on national insurance, as part of funding increases which would see an extra £50bn a year for the NHS by 2030.

The report says much of the spending should  be invested in new technology, with automation able to save £12.5bn a year for the NHS, and £6bn a year from social care budgets.

Echoing a remark by Aneurin Bevan, Minister for Health when the NHS was launched in 1948, Lord Darzi’s report says: “In the 21st century NHS, it might not be the sound of a bedpan dropping that is heard in Whitehall, but that of a robot picking it up.

“The NHS turns 70 this year but we must turn our sights to the future. We should not accept an analogue NHS in a digital decade.”

The report insists that such changes would mean NHS and care workers spent more time with patients and vulnerable elderly people.

But it also suggests that such technology could fulfil roles as companions for those who are lonely, pointing to trials of robotic pets, “providing some of the comfort that already comes from companion animals but without caring responsibilities that live animals require.”

Some have raised concerns about the use of robots to fulfil “human” functions.

Earlier this month, Esther Rantzen, veteran campaigner and founder of Silverline, a charity which tries to reduce loneliness and isolation, said: “All this remote care that you can do where you can track the little old person wandering from the kettle to the fridge so you know that they’re still up and about, I suppose that’s OK as a sort of failsafe, but nothing replaces company.”

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Health

Gosport nurses first raised alarm over use of painkillers 30 years ago

1 min read

Gosport nurses first raised alarm over use of painkillers 30 years ago

Their attempts to raise the alarm where described by Michael Taylor, the former Chief Executive of Oxfordshire Health Authority, in a 2003 report commissioned by local health authorities and published by the Gosport Independent Panel last week.

Mr Taylor found that nurses working in the Redclyffe Annexe began raising their concerns about the use of diamorphine around the same time that Dr Barton started work at the hospital, telling their union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) about the problem.

Mr Taylor described the attitude of the hospital’s management team as initially one of “inertia” which then became one of “expecting those staff raising a professional concern to prove that a problem existed.”

The RCN made little progress in resolving the issue with hospital managers and in 1991 it asked Mrs Evans to launch an investigation into the matter.

In a memo to staff on 7 November 1991 Mrs. Evans stated that she was “concerned about these allegations” over the appropriateness of prescribing diamorphine and she urged nurses to identify “the names of any patients that they feel diamorphine (or any other drug) has been prescribed inappropriately”.

However Mr Taylor said the tone of Mrs Evans’s instructions was likely to have had the effect of silencing “relatively junior nurses” rather than encouraging them to come forward.

He concluded: “The failure to follow-up the expression of concerns made by nursing staff about prescribing practice in Redclyffe Annexe from 1988 was a negligent act by the Unit Management Team.

“It is unrealistic to accept that senior managers of the Unit Management Team were unaware of the concerns about prescribing practice.”

Mr Taylor concluded that the “main managerial responsibility for inaction following formal correspondence in 1991 appears to lie with Mr Horne, Mr Hooper, Mrs Evans and Mr Millett”.

He said: “Managers seem to have placed too much reliance on the unwillingness of junior nurses to speak out in front of GPs . . . to justify any further action. If correct, this was both a naive and wholly wrong conclusion by the managers named above.”

Mrs Evans, who is now aged 78 and left Gosport War Memorial Hospital in 1996, refused to comment when approached at her home in Fareham, Hampshire.

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Patients should be charged for GP and hospital visits to fund NHS, leading doctors say

1 min read

Patients should be charged for GP and hospital visits to fund NHS, leading doctors say

Similar motions are proposed by committees from Buckinghamshire, Scunthorpe and Worcestershire and Herefordshire, which said “denial of NHS healthcare is now so endemic, that it has become regrettably necessary to consider co-payments for NHS clinical services to re-establish adequate provision”.

Cancer specialist Prof Karol Sikora said he was strongly in favour of co-payments, saying they encouraged people to take more responsibility for their health. 

“Every other aspect of life you pay for – whether it’s your holiday, your home, your car or whether or not your children go to private school,” he said.

Prof Sikora said the NHS should still provide a decent standard of care for free, with top-ups used to speed access for operations, GP appointments and expensive drugs.

“We have always talked about this but Governments of both left and right have avoided it because they thought they would lose votes. I don’t think they will,” he said. 

“I hope the BMA votes in favour of this,” said Prof Sikora, Dean of Buckinghamshire Medical School.

“They voted against the NHS at the start – they’re not all communists.”

But Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said he did not believe most of the union’s members would support the move.

“I would be very surprised if it is passed but the BMA is a democratic organisation and we will discuss the arguments,” he said.

“This is an issue that has come up before and it is something we debate but the consensus has always been that the best way to fund the NHS is through general taxation.

“Clearly when there is a lack of investment as we have seen people are going to start looking round for alternatives,” the GP added.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association said charges were not the way forward. 

“Funding the NHS through taxation spreads the risk of ill health across the population, and means that everyone can access care when they need it. “Charges, by contrast, would lead to well-off patients spending more on their care, and less well-off people being excluded, and suffering worse health as a result – it’s both inequitable and inefficient,” she said.

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Dame Vera Lynn breaks link with D-Day concert organisers after backlash

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Dame Vera Lynn breaks link with D-Day concert organisers after backlash

Such was the strength of feeling conveyed on social media that organisers eventually blocked any further comment about the concert on their Facebook page.

Nigel Hay wrote: “My great uncle, Sir Maurice Holmes, came ashore on Juno Beach on D Day where he was Beachmaster – I am absolutely certain he would have given you your marching orders in no uncertain terms.

“The 75th anniversary of Normandy is a commemoration. It is not a party, nor a circus. This beach is a totally inappropriate venue to hold a pop concert. People will wish to visit Sword, amongst other beaches, that day to quietly reflect and to honour the men who fought their way in.”

Sal Williams-Larby said: You are disrespecting my grandfather and every other veteran that lost their lives fighting for your freedom on that very spot.”

And Jean Ellwood pointed out that many families have scattered the ashes of their fathers and grandfathers there.

“The Normandy beaches are a battlefield where many thousands of soldiers died,” she wrote.

“There are human remains that still lie buried there. Would you hold a concert in a cemetery? It is a sacred area, and a total desecration to hold a concert there.”

A statement released on behalf of Dame Vera noted that she was “always keen to support charitable endeavours, especially those that benefit veterans.”

It added: “When she gave her written support to the Liberty Concert last October, the precise venues, dates and types of performances were unknown.   

“As Michiel Florusse the organiser himself suggested, Dame Vera’s name will be removed from the Board until the organisers have, not only spoken to the various veteran organisations and the veterans themselves on July 21, but also have had a meeting with Dame Vera to clarify the situation.’

“Those of us old enough to remember the D-Day Landings and the generations that followed us, owe our freedom to the servicemen who fought so bravely, and the thousands who gave their lives in Normandy. They will be  remembered forever.”

Mr Florusse told the Telegraph that there were currently no plans to change the date or the location of the concert and that they hoped to reassure those opposed to the event at the public meeting on July 21.

Liberty Concerts said online: “We sincerely believe that a respectful use of symbolic historic moments and places provide a chance to come in the hearts of the youth and the media on a meaningful and effective way.”

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