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‘Black box’ for ops, and safer drug prescribing to be investigated by local doctors

24 August 2001
For Immediate Use

Doctors from Imperial College, London, and local hospitals are to share in a UKP 500,000 research award to improve clinical standards, by examining the potential of black boxes in operating theatres, and producing a guide to safer prescribing for GPs.

Professor Ara Darzi and Dr Aziz Sheikh from Imperial College have been awarded grants by the BUPA Foundation to look at ways of improving patient care.

Professor Darzi and a team from the Department of Surgical Oncology and Technology based at St Marys Hospital, together with researchers from the University Department of Surgery at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, will develop a system for improving safety standards in surgery.

Using a concept developed to improve safety in the aviation industry, where flight information is recorded in a Black Box, it will be possible to record virtually all aspects of clinical intervention.

Known as a Clinical Data Recorder, the computer based system, will record video, audio, physiological and technical data through out surgery allowing doctors, for the first time, to obtain objective recordings of surgical procedures and to share what is learnt with other health professionals.

"We have learnt a great deal from the aviation industry. The operating theatre is the cockpit of the hospital in many ways. It is a highly technical area and the whole purpose would be to identify those issues that would improve efficiency and safety," said Professor Darzi.

Dr Sheikh and a team from the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, based at Charing Cross Hospital, are collaborating with Dr Anthony Avery from the Department of General Practice, at the University of Nottingham, to look at ways of reducing the number of hospital admissions that result from problems with prescription drugs.

It is estimated that about 7 per cent of hospital admissions occur because people experience problems with the medicines they have been prescribed by their doctor.

An analysis of previous studies will be used to identify drugs that can lead to complications. The information collated will be complied as a guide for general practitioner to aid safer prescribing.

Commenting on the research awards Professor Sir Michael Peckham, chairman of the BUPA Foundation said: Achieving excellent clinical results and avoiding adverse events is high on the agenda of Government and doctors and of pressing concern to the public. The Foundation hopes that these studies will contribute to our understanding of how practical steps can be taken to improve the quality of care and patient safety.

The projects are two of four major studies that will be funded over the next two years by the BUPA Foundation to investigate ways of improving patient care.


For more information please contact:

Judith H. Moore
Imperial College Press Office
Tel +44 20 7594 6702

Julie Black
BUPA Corporate Communications
Tel 020 7656 2545

Notes to Editors

The BUPA Foundation exists to provide finance towards the prevention, relief and cure of sickness and ill health and while it receives generous financial support from health and care company BUPA, it also seeks funds from other donors as demands on its resources are high. The Foundation has awarded grants in excess of UKP 8 million for medical research. Last year, it decided to take a more pro-active approach to funding and committing UKP 500,000 to research into reducing adverse events in healthcare is its first move towards achieving this. Initially, the Foundation offered up to UKP 250,000 for this research, but the quality of the bids received was of such a hch a high standard that the funding was raised to UKP 500,000, and will be allocated over the next two years.

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine is the largest applied science, technology and medicine university institution in the UK. It is consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions for research quality, with one of the largest annual turnovers (UKP339 million in 1999-2000) and research incomes (UKP176 million in 1999-2000). Website: