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PACS goes nationwide

THE DIGITAL X-RAY system PACS will be available in the NHS throughout England by early 2008, the Department of Health has announced. 92 trusts and over 250 hospitals across the country have already installed digital X-ray technology as part of the NHS Connecting for Health programme.

The Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) has already been installed by every London hospital trust. This will mean faster diagnoses and a saving of £250,000 per year for each London trust in the first year of service. Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, said: “The NHS leads the way in using digital X-rays, which are not yet being used by all leading private healthcare providers. This new system will provide NHS users with a first-class, 21st-century service.

“The digital images can be recalled whenever and wherever they need to be accessed by a patient’s healthcare professional. Hospitals will no longer have to pay for film, doctors will be able to diagnose treatment quicker and patients will receive a faster, better service.” Approximately 80% of patients in England are currently able to benefit from PACS. Diagnosis times have been halved nationally using the PACS system, from more than six days to less than three.

Scotland to introduce single-use scalpels

ALL TONSILLECTOMIESin Scotland will be carried out with single-use surgical instruments by this autumn. The move aims to reduce the risk of patients being infected with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). Similar steps are being taken in England and Wales, following recommendations from an expert group.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Fraser said: “As our knowledge of vCJD increases, we must ensure that clinical practices and procedures keep pace with this knowledge. We have accepted the expert advice on vCJD and tonsillectomies, as have the other UK health departments. We will shortly issue detailed instructions to the NHS in Scotland on how these improvements will be implemented.”

Hugh Pennington, Professor of Bacteriology at Aberdeen University, welcomed the decision. He said that prions (infectious agents that may cause vCJD) had been found in the tonsils of those who had died of vCJD, but not in tonsils from the general population; and that current procedures to sterilise instruments were not strong enough to eradicate prions. Around 7,500 tonsillectomies are carried out each year in Scotland, many of them on children. The NHS in Scotland was allocated an additional £3m this year to support improvements in decontamination.

SpineVision sells its spinal motion preservation and fusion products, directly or through distributors, in 14 countries. It expects to add further market coverage in 2007. For more information, visitwww.spinevision.com.


First decontamination supercentre opens

THE FIRST OF A NATIONWIDE SERIES of surgical instrument decontamination supercentres, designed to enhance safety and reduce costs, has opened in Birmingham. Run as a joint venture by private firm B Braun Sterilog, the facility in Kings Norton will clean, sterilise and reprocess surgical instruments. A second facility will open in Yardley Green later this year.

The two units will provide services to operating theatres, wards and departments in the seven NHS trusts of the Pan-Birmingham Decontamination Project, as well as the wider community-based NHS and healthcare organisations. B Braun Sterilog is investing over £10m in the Birmingham facilities, which will provide complete traceability of instrument sets through the decontamination process.

“The Pan-Birmingham Project is the first of many of these joint ventures to open for business,” said Chris O’Boyle, commercial director of the National Decontamination Programme. “The joint venture offers NHS hospitals a good value way of securing modern, improved sterile services now and for the future.” The DH has published a clarification and policy summary document for the NHS and the independent sector on the decontamination of reusable medical devices.

Radiosurgery enables rocker to play on

DOUG FIEGER, lead singer of The Knack, has been enabled by new radiosurgery techniques to continue playing despite having brain tumours. Fieger co-wrote the song ‘My Sharona’, which topped the charts in 1979.

Last year, Fieger was diagnosed with two brain tumours. He was treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by neurosurgeon John Yu, MD. Yu removed the larger tumour through a traditional craniotomy, but the smaller tumour was in a critical location.

“That tumour was in the motor area of his brain, and removing it surgically would have left him weak in his arm and probably unable to play the guitar,” said Yu, who used the Radionics X-Knife™ system to remove the tumour. “Compared to a craniotomy, radiosurgery not only spared the feeling in his fingers so he could play guitar, but also allowed him to maintain his overall mental sharpness so that he could actually write songs again.”

Fieger has been back for additional radiosurgery with Cedars-Sinai’s new Gamma Knife® Despite the interruptions, he has continued to perform. “You can’t lie down,” he says. “You can’t stop your life. I’m not waiting for my life to happen; it’s happening.” While fighting his own battle against cancer, Fieger hopes to help others in similar situations.

Asteral is Health Investor Awards finalist

ASTERAL, THE LEADING v e n d o r – i n d e p e n d e n t Managed Equipment Service provider to the NHS, has been shortlisted as one of three finalists in the ‘Partnership Working Deal of the Year’ category of the Health Investor Awards.

Asteral and the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust have developed a unique approach to Managed Equipment Services. As a result of this 15-year partnership agreement, the hospital’s new, fullydigital Imaging Department went live in November 2006.

The Health Investor Awards are judged by a steering committee of health industry representatives. Each category entrant is judged on the criteria of delivering value, overcoming obstacles, co-ordinating professional parties and achieving the end goal.

David Rolfe, Managing Director of Asteral, said: “It is a great honour for Asteral to be shortlisted as a finalist of the Health Investor Awards. Such an accolade is a testimony to our team of healthcare professionals – our dedication, commitment and combined knowledge of the clinical and commercial environment sets us apart from other players in this marketplace.” For further information about the Awards and full nomination listings, visitwww.healthinvestor.co.uk/awards. The winners will be announced on 28 June 2007. 


MHRA warnings on home testing kits

PATIENTS WHO BUY HOME TESTING KITS are being urged to report equipment failures to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulations Agency (MHRA). The agency has produced leaflets and posters highlighting the dangers of faulty medical equipment and outlining how people can report problems.

Device faults can include blood glucose meters giving false high readings, which could lead to patients self-administering an insulin overdose. Faults can be reported by phone, e-mail or post.

The British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) has raised some concerns about how this campaign will be received by the public. “BIVDA applauds the MHRA’s initiative in raising awareness regarding safety in the general public,” said Doris-Ann Williams, Director General of BIVDA. “However, with regard to home testing, it was very disappointing to see that information was not provided to warn people to look for the CE mark on the packaging to ensure they are purchasing a bona fide product.

“Regarding the device reporting information, I again feel that a trick has been missed in provision of information about CE marking on the packaging, and also feel that the general tone of the press release is rather alarmist and could engender a lack of confidence in medical devices among the public.”


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