Central Manchester tames clinical waste with tiger bags

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has diverted 40% of its clinical waste into a cheaper-to-treat category, by introducing special ‘tiger’ bags.

The distinctive yellow and black striped bags are for clinical waste such as dressings and incontinence pads used by non-infectious patients. Previously all clinical waste had been heat-treated in an autoclave, but this process – which adds £100 per tonne to the cost – is now used only for waste from infectious patients. Amounts going through the more expensive process have fallen from around 130 tonnes in April 2014 to around 60 tonnes in December 2016. Continue reading “Central Manchester tames clinical waste with tiger bags”

For organisations, Brexit means deal with it

Britain is a world-leader in genomics. When I heard George Freeman MP, the chair of the prime minister’s policy board, tell a conference that despite having voted Remain he thought Brexit could lead to a better regulatory framework for genomics, it sounded like a story. Computer Weekly published the resulting article last week.

UK organisations concerned with genomics didn’t seem to want to discuss it, however. Apart from a short statement from the Department of Health and Mr Freeman’s comments, I interviewed a specialist lawyer and Kari Stefansson, the founder of Icelandic genomics firm deCode Genetics, who suggested that public healthcare should only be available if patients participate in genomic research.

Organisations should be considering and talking about the opportunities Brexit brings, as well as working to mitigate its dangers. In public sector IT, some suppliers already serve the UK and other Anglophone countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, given similar legal and political structures; new trade deals could help expand this. And if Brexit allows regulatory changes that boost genomic research, they are surely worth considering. Continue reading “For organisations, Brexit means deal with it”

IT should focus on productivity not eliminating people

Earlier this month I took part in the Milton Keynes self-driving car trial, for a forthcoming article for Computer Weekly. Sitting in a car that steers its own wheel was enormous fun. However, it was striking that those I spoke to for the article thought that fully driverless cars on public roads are a long way off. Such technology is generally better-suited to making operators more productive rather than replacing them.

There is something of an obsession within tech for eliminating people completely, whether drivers or customer service staff. But with the latter, where the process has gone a lot further, the result is often frustrated rather than delighted customers, and the same is likely to be true of any process that involves human users – which is most of them. As Izabella Kaminska argues in the FT’s Alphaville blog, among many other drawbacks, properly driverless taxis would quickly end up twice as filthy as night buses at dawn with no-one to supervise them. Continue reading “IT should focus on productivity not eliminating people”

Norfolk uses data in libraries’ public health drive

Norfolk County Council has won a national award for its libraries’ health education work, which involves tailoring each library’s work based on local public health data.

In September, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals awarded Norfolk its annual Libraries Change Lives award for the county’s Healthy Libraries project. This involves activities in the county’s 47 libraries including pedal-powered smoothie bikes, hula-hoop challenges and neighbourhood lunches. Continue reading “Norfolk uses data in libraries’ public health drive”

Those GCHQ, MI5 and SIS NHS medical record denials in full

Last week, Computer Weekly published my article headlined ‘MI5 staff repeatedly overrode data surveillance rules’. This was one of several interesting stories contained within the documents released by Privacy International in late July which I rounded up in the article, another being specific statements by GCHQ, MI5 and SIS (or MI6) in witness statements that they do not retain bulk personal datasets of medical records, from the NHS or anywhere else.

Tweeting this attracted a fair bit of attention, including some querying the careful language quoted in the article. Given the interest, here are the sections regarding medical records from each of the three agencies, all from this document which contains the three witness statements. By bulk personal datasets (BPDs), the agencies mean untargeted data covering a lot of people, most of whom will be innocent – the haystack rather than just the needles. Continue reading “Those GCHQ, MI5 and SIS NHS medical record denials in full”