Care of brain injury victims ‘poor’

Patients with serious brain injuries are being let down by poor care, the BBC’s Newsnight programme has learned.

Secretly-filmed footage passed to Newsnight shows examples of patient neglect and ignored safety procedures.

Incidents include one healthcare worker cleaning a feeding and medicine tube with a pen nib and one patient marked as nil-by-mouth being given drinks.

NHS England told the BBC it is working to improve specialist rehabilitation for patients with such complex needs.

However, one leading expert told Newsnight that some patients were not recovering as fully as they might because of these problems with their care.

Professor Michael Barnes, a specialist in neurological rehabilitation medicine who chairs the UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum, said: “There are some very good rehabilitation centres in this country, but equally I’m afraid there are units in this country that really don’t provide proper co-ordinated rehabilitation at all.

“And yet that’s what they are called. And that, I think, is a sad reflection and something needs to be done about that.”

Every 90 seconds someone in the UK suffers a brain injury. There can be many causes, such as a bleed to the brain, a fall, an assault – often it is the result of a road accident.

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Every time I went to see him he was wet to his armpits [with urine]”

Binny Partner of Grant Clarke

Following an injury of this sort, the brain has to rebuild pathways to allow the person who has suffered the injury to re-learn the things they once took for granted, and that is why specialist rehabilitation and good care are so vital.

Grant Clarke had a massive brain haemorrhage last year, at the age of 43. He was left severely disabled, but during 12 weeks in hospital he made steady progress.

His family believed with the right help he would be home within four months.

But they say his recovery was undermined by poor care and a lack of appropriate rehabilitation when he was transferred to the West Kent Neuro-rehabilitation Unit in Sevenoaks.

“He didn’t have his teeth brushed,” Mr Clarke’s partner Binny told us.

“He didn’t have his armpits washed. He was left in urine, all the time. Every time I went to see him he was wet to his armpits, and cold.”

After raising her concerns on a number of occasions she decided to take the extreme action of installing a secret camera in his room. She was shocked by the footage it recorded.


Mr Clarke’s injuries had left him unable to swallow, and so a tube was inserted to bring food, liquids and medication straight to his stomach.

Grant Clarke receiving treatment
Grant Clarke is now receiving appropriate, specialist treatment

The tube had to be cleaned with care to avoid infection, but the secret filming shows a healthcare worker cleaning the top of it with the nib of a pen.

Despite him being nil-by-mouth, another healthcare assistant was seen giving Mr Clarke drinks of water five times over two nights.

And though he can barely speak, his call bell was removed three times in 10 days.

Binny later discovered that only one of the nursing staff at the unit had training in brain injuries, even though it was described as a specialist unit.

Following a complaint made by the family the healthcare worker who gave Grant the drinks was interviewed by police, but they decided not to take action against him.

The worker gave a letter to the police in which he expressed his regret for his actions. He no longer works for the West Kent Neuro-rehabilitation Unit.

Mr Clarke’s family made 26 complaints to the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust. Most were upheld – including the removal of the call bell and the use of a pen to clean the top of Mr Clarke’s feeding tube.

In a statement to BBC Newsnight the Trust said: “We remain appalled by what happened.”

It continues: “We subsequently created a robust action plan to address all concerns,” and adds that compulsory, specialist training for all staff has now been introduced.

Failings in basic care

Mr Clarke, who is now in another rehabilitation unit that is providing him with the care and support he needs, is making progress and starting to spend time at home with his family.

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Professor Michael Barnes

There is good evidence that although rehabilitation costs more money, that money is recouped by that person requiring less support from the state”

Professor Michael Barnes Chairman, UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum

But concerns of a similar nature have been raised by the family of Mark Courtney.

He had a severe asthma attack in March 2007 that left him severely brain damaged. His family say they have experienced failings in basic care ever since.

“He has been in four different placements in the last six-and-a-half-years and I have found that not any of the placements are ideal,” his wife Chammelle told BBC Newsnight.

Mrs Courtney’s concerns about her husband’s care include unexplained cuts and bruises, medication errors and a failure to position him correctly.

She believes patients in all of the facilities where he has been treated are at serious risk of harm.

Professor Michael Barnes says that investment in brain injury rehabilitation could save the state money in the longer term.

“There is good evidence that although rehabilitation costs more money clearly than someone going home, or going to a nursing home, that money is recouped over two to three years by that person requiring less support from the state, getting back to work and earning money.”

Dr John Etherington is the National Clinical Director for Rehabilitation and Recovering in the Community at NHS England.

He told BBC Newsnight: “This role bolsters a number of initiatives already underway which will start to enhance provision. These include the establishment of a Clinical Reference Group to examine the commissioning of specialised rehabilitation services, the development of regional trauma networks to review services – which has already led to service improvements – and a review of funding for long term conditions which is underway through the ‘Year of Care’ initiative that will enable a more flexible and patient centred distribution of funding.

“We have also for the first time, put in place a national specification for specialised rehabilitation to combat variation in services and ensure more equitable access across the country. This work is vital to improving outcomes for patients.”

Quantum ‘world record’ smashed

An artistic rendition of a 'bound exciton' quantum state used to prepare and read out the state of the qubits
Quantum systems are notoriously fickle to measure and manipulate

A fragile quantum memory state has been held stable at room temperature for a “world record” 39 minutes – overcoming a key barrier to ultrafast computers.

“Qubits” of information encoded in a silicon system persisted for almost 100 times longer than ever before.

Quantum systems are notoriously fickle to measure and manipulate, but if harnessed could transform computing.

The new benchmark was set by an international team led by Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University, Canada.

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“39 minutes may not seem very long. But these lifetimes are many times longer than previous experiments”

Stephanie Simmons Oxford University

“This opens the possibility of truly long-term storage of quantum information at room temperature,” said Prof Thewalt, whose achievement is detailed in the journal Science.

In conventional computers, “bits” of data are stored as a string of 1s and 0s.

But in a quantum system, “qubits” are stored in a so-called “superposition state” in which they can be both 1s and 0 at the same time – enabling them to perform multiple calculations simultaneously.

The trouble with qubits is their instability – typical devices “forget” their memories in less than a second.

There is no Guinness Book of quantum records. But unofficially, the previous best for a solid state system was 25 seconds at room temperature, or three minutes under cryogenic conditions.

In this new experiment, scientists encoded information into the nuclei of phosphorus atoms held in a sliver of purified silicon.

Magnetic field pulses were used to tilt the spin of the nuclei and create superposition states – the qubits of memory.

The team prepared the sample at -269C, close to absolute zero – the lowest temperature possible.

Artist's impression of a phosphorus atom qubit in silicon, showing a ticking clock

When they raised the system to room temperature (just above 25C) the superposition states survived for 39 minutes.

What’s more, they found they could manipulate the qubits as the temperature of the system rose and fell back towards absolute zero.

At cryogenic temperatures, their quantum memory system remained coherent for three hours.

“Having such robust, as well as long-lived, qubits could prove very helpful for anyone trying to build a quantum computer,” said co-author Stephanie Simmons of Oxford University’s department of materials.

“39 minutes may not seem very long. But these lifetimes are many times longer than previous experiments.

“We’ve managed to identify a system that seems to have basically no noise.”

However she cautions there are still many hurdles to overcome before large-scale quantum computations can be performed.

For one thing, their memory device was built with a highly purified form of silicon – free from the magnetic isotopes which interfere with the spin of nuclei.

For another, the spins of the 10 billion or so phosphorus ions used in this experiment were all placed in the same quantum state.

Continue reading the main story

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“What’s most important is this is silicon. The global investment in this material means it has a lot of potential for engineering”

Dr Thaddeus Ladd HRL Laboratories

Whereas to run calculations, physicists will need to place different qubits in different states – and control how they couple and interact.

“To have them controllably talking to one another – that would address the last big remaining challenge,” said Dr Simmons.

Independent experts in the quantum field said the new record was an “exciting breakthrough” that had long been predicted.

“This result represents an important step towards realising quantum devices,” said David Awschalom, professor in Spintronics and Quantum Information, at the University of Chicago.

“However, a number of intriguing challenges still remain. For instance – will it be possible to precisely control the local electron-nuclear interaction to enable initialisation, storage, and readout of the nuclear spin states?”

The previous “world record” for a solid state quantum system at room temperature – 25 seconds – was held by Dr Thaddeus Ladd, formerly of Stanford University‘s Quantum Information Science unit, now working for HRL Laboratories.

“It’s remarkable that these coherence states could be held for so long in a measurable system – as measurement normally introduces noise,” he told BBC News.

“It’s also a nice surprise that nothing goes wrong warming up and cooling the sample again – from an experimental point of view that’s pretty remarkable.

“What is perhaps most important is that this is silicon. The global investment in this particular material means that it has a lot of potential for engineering.”

Insomnia Cure Boosts Success of Depression Treatment.

reating persistent insomnia at the same time as depression could double the chances that the mood disorder will disappear, a new study shows.

Doctors have long reported a link between insomnia — the inability to sleep — and depression, but many thought that depression led to insomnia. Now, experts suspect sleep problems can sometimes precede depression.

If other ongoing studies confirm these results, it might lead to major changes in depression treatment, experts added. Such changes would represent the biggest advance in depression treatment since the antidepressant Prozac was introduced in 1987, The New York Times reported.

“The way this story is unfolding, I think we need to start augmenting standard depression treatment with therapy focused on insomnia,” Colleen Carney, lead author of the small study, told the Times.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

The insomnia treatment relied on talk therapy, rather than sleep medication, for 66 patients.

Insomnia and depression are both common problems, and often interact, explained Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He was not involved in the study.

“Clearly, poor sleep can cause depression and depression can cause poor sleep,” he said.

Evidence does exist that for many people, symptoms of insomnia precede symptoms of depression by a few years, Feinsilver noted. “This could be taken to mean either that insomnia causes depression or that insomnia is the earliest symptom of depression,” he said.

This study may help untangle that relationship. It “suggests that specifically treating the insomnia with behavioral techniques can substantially improve the outcome of patients with depression,” Feinsilver added.

For the millions of people with depression, the findings offer a ray of hope.

“This relatively simple technique for treating insomnia could be tremendously helpful for those with this common psychiatric illness,” Feinsilver said.

More than 20 million Americans suffer from depression — disabling feelings of sadness and despair that don’t go away, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. More than half of those with depression also suffer from insomnia.

The research team, from Ryerson University in Toronto, found depression lifted significantly among patients whose insomnia was cured. The insomnia treatment consisted of four talk therapy sessions over eight weeks, according to the Times.

During the sessions, patients were given certain instructions: set a specific wake-up time and don’t veer from it; get out of bed when awake but don’t eat, read or watch TV; and refrain from taking any daytime naps.

Almost 90 percent of patients who responded to the insomnia therapy also saw their depression lift after taking an antidepressant pill or an inactive placebo for two months. That was about double the rate of those who could not shake their sleeplessness, the news report said.

Study participants had to have had a month of sleep loss that had an effect on their jobs, family life or other relationships.

A smaller pilot study conducted at Stanford University produced similar findings, the Times reported.

Carney was to present the latest research Saturday at a conference of the Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapies, in Nashville, Tenn., the newspaper reported.

Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Monsanto Pesticides To Blame For Birth Defects In Argentina.

Argentina has become one of the worlds largest soybean producers, with the majority of its crops being majorly composed of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Agrochemical spraying in the country has mushroomed over the last several years, in 1990 roughly 9 million gallons of argochemical spraying was needed, compared to today’s requirement of roughly 84 million gallons. Included in that was the use of over 200 million liters of herbicides containing poisons such as glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. The country’s entire soybean crop, along with nearly all of its cotton and corn crops, have become genetically modified over the last decade. Along with the increase in GMO crops and pesticide use, the country has seen a disturbing and alarming growth in the prevalence of birth defects, cancer rates, and other negative health ailments. This has lead many of its citizens, including medical professionals, to assert the notion that pesticides, GMOs, and biotech giants are the ones to blame.


Two year old Camila Veron [pictured above], was born with multiple organ problems and severely disabled, the doctors had told her family that the agrochemicals might have been to blame. And dozens of other similar cases have been witnessed in the area. It is firmly believed that the herbicide used on the genetically modified crops, may over an extended period of time after consumption, cause brain, intestinal, and heart defects in fetuses. In Ituzaingo, a district comprised of roughly 5,000 people [and surrounded by many soy fields] has seen over the past eight years, more than 300 documented cases of cancer associated with fumigations and pesticides have been experienced, they have reported cancer rates that are 41 times the national average.

Sergio H. Lence, "The Agricultural Sector in Argentina: Major Trends and Recent Developmebts," 2010Monsanto has [unsurprisingly] denied the claims that their GMOs have contributed in any way to the increased occurrence of experienced birth defects in the nation. Even though dozens of cases have been exposed which illustrate the misuse and illegality of pesticide application, pesticides are showing up in alarming rates in the soil and drinking water. Disturbingly, 80% of children surveyed in one area were found to have pesticides in their blood. Studies have demonstrated that low concentrations of pesticides [such as glyphosate] is understood to harm human cells and cause cancer.

Unfortunately for the Monsanto public relations department, the Associated Press has documented numerous cases within the country where poisons are being, and have been, applied in ways which are prohibited by existing law, or unanticipated by regulatory science. Medical professionals in the area have also been advising their clients that pesticide application within the country may be to blame. Not only is the rise of Roundup-saturated crops a potential health risk to residents of the area, but it’s a danger to the environment, and other animals that will eat these crops. In the ongoing battle against genetically modified foods and biotech [government-protected] corporate giants like Monsanto, it is crucial to remember that genetically engineered foods have never been proven safe for consumption over an extended period of time. One only hopes that corporations such as Monsanto, who destroy lives and communities, be held responsible for their carelessly negligible actions.

NASA’s Tips For Interpreting Satellite Images.

Example tip: Farmed vegetation often looks brighter green than natural vegetation

satellite image of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state

Straight Lines Mark Off Land Parcels in a Mixed-Use Forest.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Landsat 8 data from the USGS Earth Explorer

Here at Popular Science, we love satellite images. They offer cool views of Earthly phenomena such as plankton blooms and erupting volcanoes. They give important perspective on the impact of natural disasters such as floods and fires. Seeing stuff from space can be a bit disorienting, however. But fear not. The Earth Observatory, NASA’s public site for its Earth sciences, has listed some cool patterns to look for while interpreting satellite images. Some highlights:

  • A line of clouds can indicate there are mountains below, as the mountains push warmer air upwards to higher elevations, where it cools and forms clouds. A line of vortices in the ocean, on the other hand, can indicate there are peaks below the surface of the water, perturbing the water’s flow.
  • There’s an optical illusion called relief inversion that can happen with satellite images. Mountains appear to be canyons, or vice versa. The Earth Observatory explains:

    It happens because most of us expect an image to be lit from the top left corner. When the sunlight comes from another angle (especially from the lower edge), the shadows fall in ways we don’t expect and our brains turn valleys into mountains to compensate. The problem is usually resolved by rotating the image so the light appears to come from the top of the image.

  • Farmed plants often look brighter green than natural vegetation.
  • Smoke often looks smoother than clouds. Haze is featureless and may be opaque if it’s dense, or translucent if it’s thinner. It’s not always possible to tell, just from visual inspection, the difference between white haze and natural fog.

Happy Earth-watching.

9 Ways to Actually Do What You Love.

Doing what you love is the cornerstone to having abundance in your life. ~Wayne Dyer

For most of us, life is so busy.

I’m usually up at 5:30 a.m. with my two year-old, and spend the next 16 hours chasing, wiping, cleaning, (coaching), snuggling, (writing), playing, dressing, (emailing), on-my-tummy-looking-under-the-couch shoe finding, and ending ‘I-had-it-first’ wars involving my 5 year-old.

In addition to being a mom of two, I’m also a life & career coach and a blogger. So I’m busy!

And whether or not your day involves diapers, I’m sure you have an equally busy (if not equally sticky) list of things to do. With so much on your must-do list, how do you find the time to even find, much less do, what you love?

Here’s a list of 9 ways that you can actually implement into your life whatever it is that you love.

1. Find what you love

It’s hard to follow your passion if you have no idea which way it went. If you already know your passion, you’re ahead of the game. But if you don’t this is the place to start. Generally, if you don’t know what you love there might be a few things happening:

a. You haven’t encountered your passion yet: In this case, get out there and start experiencing life. Try anything that sounds remotely interesting. Look to your personality, your past and your own hopes and dreams for clues.

b. You’ve “forgotten” your passion: Maybe it’s been so long since you did a particular thing that you’ve forgotten the love you have for it. Or maybe the love you used to have for something has faded. Work to rekindle the flame or remember the core of why you loved what you loved, and apply that to something new.

c. You’re afraid: Maybe your passion eludes you because you’re too afraid of what it would mean to know what you’re passionate about. Did you have a bad experience pursuing a passion in the past? Are you afraid that your passion will call on you to be bigger, stronger, brighter, and more out-there in the world than you feel comfortable with? It’s time to face your fear.

2. Make yourself a priority

You’ll need to actually carve out the time to do whatever you love. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time – any amount dedicated to what you love will make your life better.

But, to make yourself a priority, you’re going to have to practice the art of saying no. No to things that waste your time, to things you don’t want to do but feel you should, and to things you want, but that don’t actually make you happier.

3. Shift your mindset

It’s not groundbreaking to think that you can actually make time for your passion. What is groundbreaking though, is the shift that comes with actually knowing to your core that you can make time for your passionIt’s one thing to know it in your brain, and quite another to know it in your heart. Shift your heart so that you know that a passion-filled life is possible for you.

4. Consider other people

Sometimes the difficulty in doing what you love comes in the form of feeling you’ll be disappointing others by taking time away from them.

You can choose to involve other people in your passion, or you can make room for others to enjoy their own passion.Make it ok in your relationships to pursue things on your own, knowing you come back together as more whole people.

5. Lower the bar

In my work as a coach, I help people find their passions and put them to work – literally. But you don’t have to be paid to do what you love. Sometimes this requirement is just too much out of the gate. For now, begin doing what you love to do. If you love writing, write.

If you love cooking, cook. Don’t worry too much that it’s happening in your precious few “spare” hours. As it evolves, you may be able to find a way to make your passions pay the bills, but for now, just do what you love and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

6. Do what you don’t love (with a happy heart)

Life is funny that way. But when you put your best energy into everything you do, you are rewarded. I can’t pretend to really know the mechanics of this, though I have some ideas. The point is, though, when you constantly push yourself to be the best you can be in any situation, you begin to invite abundance and opportunity into your life.

7. Be fearless

So often I see people get paralyzed by fear. Their brain fast forwards to a yet-to-happen event which causes them to stay stuck. “What happens if I’m not good enough? What happens if I can’t make it?”

It’s these fears – fears in anticipation of something that hasn’t even had the chance to occur yet, that prevents some people from even starting. Rest in the knowledge that you can handle whatever comes your way. Then keep moving.

8. Be positive

It’s easy to be beaten down by life sometimes, and the view from deep in that rut is less than hopeful. Consciously cultivate a positive attitude. It will carry you through the days when it’s easy to give up on passion – the days when you call your passion names like “pipe-dream.”

9. Do what you love

Don’t waste too much time planning to do what you love. Just do it. Pick up that paintbrush, your guitar, or your running shoes. Remember that often the barriers to doing what we love are of our own creation. You love what you love for a reason. Now get out there and enjoy it!

Are you ready to actually do what you love and live a happy and fulfilling life?