Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fears over care-home drug errors

Article on BBC website by Nick Triggle 5 October 2009

University of London researchers found seven in 10 elderly people living in care homes were victims of drug errors, having carried out half-day snapshot inspections of 55 homes. They blamed "inadequate information, over-worked staff, poor teamwork and often complex courses of medication."

The study gathered data on 256 residents from a morning's medication. In total, mistakes were made in 178 cases with many the victims of more than one error.

The most common mistakes involved wrong dosages, insufficient monitoring of residents after medication had been taken and people being given the drug at the wrong time. Most were only minor, although one resident did suffer a thyroid complication.

Care home residents are being given more complex courses of medication. In this study the residents received an average of eight different pills a day.

Andy Brazier

Driving factors and challenges in the development of unmanned combat air vehicles

Article on the Defence professionals wbesite on 5 October 2009. Discusses the increased use of unmanned military planes.

One point made is that these aircraft are becoming more autonomous, being left to fly themselves whilst the person who would have been in control in the past is now monitoring remotely. The article says "This, argue some, will result in fewer accidents as the piloting task is de-skilled and the UAV operator becomes a “supervisor”, with the majority of UAV losses now down to human error." However, it is interesting that there may be a technical necessity for higher degrees of autonomy because bandwidth is limited and hence if more unmanned aircraft are going to be used it may not be possible to control them all at the same time.

The article summarises a number of future challenges for increasing the role of unmanned aircraft. One is the difficulty with findings places to conduct flight trials that will not interfere with other military and civil air traffic. Another is that, whilst more is technically possible it may be that cultural acceptance may not be so forthcoming. "For instance, despite autopilots and advanced flight management systems in today’s glass-cockpit airliners which control the flight almost from beginning to end, the majority of passengers would be markedly reluctant to fly in a pilotless aircraft, even if told that the elimination of human error might actually result in a safer aircraft"

Andy Brazier

Monday, October 05, 2009

Electoral Commission rebuffs GLA plans for e-counting

Article in The Guardian by Charles Arthur 2 October 2009

The Greater London Council (GLA) have carried out a cost benefit analysis for using electronic vote counting instead of manual counting in forthcoming elections. The Electoral Commission has raised a number of concerns with the analysis including the suggestion that e-voting is "free from human error."

The basic finding is that e-counting will be 40% more expensive, but more accurate and quicker. But the commission report points out that if the extra money was paid into manual counting it might be able to achieve similar results.

It seems that this is a classic case of the benefits of using technology are over-stated whilst compared with the most pessimistic view of the low-tech, but well established techniques.

Andy Brazier