A new computerised early warning system will help spot new ‘legal highs’ and chemical incidents within hours of people reporting to A&E.
The Health Protection Agency's National Poisons Information Service is to fit new software to its 'Toxbase' database to detect new compounds as they are introduced onto the United Kingdom drug scene.
Toxbase is an online information resource used by healthcare professionals seeking advice on the treatment of poisoned patients. Each year it handles more than 500,000 on-line enquiries across the United Kingdom.
The software will automatically flag up new cases of interest within hours of patients presenting at hospital A&E departments across the country. Until now, NPIS has needed to interrogate Toxbase retrospectively to reveal new trends.
Dr Michael Eddleston, honorary consultant physician at the National Poisons Information Service, who today presented Toxbase at the HPA’s annual conference, said: "An email will be generated informing NPIS that the page of interest has been viewed within five minutes of it being accessed by a healthcare professional. This could indicate that a newly identified recreational drug has been used.
"The system will allow online enquiries made across different hospitals to be considered as a whole, which should allow us to pick up new incidents and trends."
The software could also help highlight new drugs of misuse by providing information on unsuccessful searches. Rapid identification of such drugs will help provide important data about symptoms and best treatment.
It will also be capable of spotting chemical incidents within hours of people reporting to hospital A&E departments, which should help speed up the diagnosis and treatment of people suffering the effects of chemical poisonings.