Professor Paul Aylin, Healthcare Scandals and the Weekend Effect

Professor Paul Aylin portrait

Professor Paul Aylin is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College London. His particularly focus is on safety in healthcare, which has led him to produce research on some of the biggest healthcare scandals in recent British history. In this podcast, he talks about the work he and his colleagues have carried out in relation to the Bristol heart scandal, the Dr Harold Shipman enquiry and, notably, the research that helped bring the appalling standards of care at Mid Staffs to light. More recently, Professor Aylin has investigated the weekend effect in UK hospitals.

The weekend effect is the name given to the finding of a difference in mortality rates at the weekend in hospitals, specifically an increased number of deaths among patients at the weekend compared to during the week. This finding received a great deal of attention in the UK in 2016 during the disputes over the new Junior Doctors’ contract, and it was hotly debated. Professor Aylin carefully explains the research he and his colleagues have carried out in relation to the weekend effect, and addresses some of the peculiarities of the controversy their findings created.

Here is a link to Professor Aylin’s response in the BMJ to that letter in the Guardian. To find out more about Professor Aylin and his work, please click here.

Dr Keith Grimes illustrates the potential for Virtual Reality technology in health care

Dr Keith Grimes is a GP, and he is a health technology geek. Virtual Reality, or VR, is one of his particular technological passions. In this podcast, Dr Grimes describes how he has used Virtual Reality in his practice as a GP to assist patients undergoing painful procedures. He also discusses the work of other researchers investigating prospective applications for VR in health, and the work he and Mr Bhudia, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, are collaborating on to investigate the potential for using Virtual Reality technology to combat post-operative delirium. Throughout the podcast, Dr Grimes highlights the importance and excitement of innovation, but he just as thoroughly emphasises the need to attend to patient safety and to buttress innovation with hard evidence. He also imparts some hard won wisdom on innovating within the NHS.

Dr Grimes is happy to chat about the uses of technology in health and can be found on twitter @keithgrimes. He also has an excellent website with further articles and media on the interactions between technology and health:

If you are particularly interested in the use of Virtual Reality in health, then VR Docs is a good place to connect with likeminded souls. You can do so here:

Professor Dorothy Bennett discusses research into cell senescence and melanomas

In this podcast episode, Professor Dorothy Bennett discusses her research into cell senescence, melanomas and the related genetics.

Melanomas are an aggressive form of skin cancer that develops from moles. Professor Bennett and her colleagues have been investigating the genetics of melanomas and the markers that could help distinguish melanomas, and moles that are developing into melanomas, from healthy moles.

Cell senescence is a form of cell ageing that occurs in human body cells (amongst others). When they become senescent cells cease to divide. This is related to the phenomenon of overall ageing, and Professor Bennett’s research is looking in particular at the temporary reversal of some aspects of cell senescence to assist in wound healing in older people.

Professor Dorothy Bennett is based at St. George’s, University of London where she holds the post of Director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Institute. She also founded, and is the current President of, the International Cell Senescence Association, about which more information can be found here.

Professor Mike Grocott on medical research and Mount Everest

Professor Mike Grocott could never be described as a typical medic. Amongst his varied roles, he is the Director Caudwell Xtreme Everest, and Professor of Anaesthesia and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Southampton.

In this episode, Professor Grocott was able to explain to me how he ended up on the highest peak on Earth conducting research aimed at benefiting the most critically ill patients, and some of the fascinating insights that this research has so far revealed in relation to hypoxia and human adaptation.

Dr Dagan Lonsdale on Speaking Out


In this podcast, Dr Dagan Lonsdale talks very frankly about the practicalities and realities of speaking out through the media on a controversial political topic whilst working as a doctor. This is highly recommended listening, particularly for anyone interested in the challenges of working with the media to get your views across to the public, and for those who want to know more about the dispute between the Department of Health and junior doctors regarding the terms of a new contract.

Dr Lonsdale is an experienced clinical pharmacologist and intensive care registrar who works in London, and he has been very vocal during the junior doctors contract dispute. He has appeared in numerous interviews, including alongside Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary.

This podcast was recorded on the 3rd of May 2016.



Midwifery and Choosing the Right Words to Talk about Childbirth

Lynne Hogan is a former NHS midwife with a breadth of experience ranging from Essex to the Highlands of Scotland. In this episode, she speaks out about the gap between public perceptions of childbirth and the reality, and the variety of ways in which midwives can support expectant mothers through their pregnancy, delivery and beyond. Lynne is also able to offer fascinating insights into the importance of language and choosing the right words to talk about childbirth, particularly illustrating how medical professionals and members of the public can unwittingly do harm.


Naomi Mwasambili and Megan Charles, mental health professionals and entrepreneurs, talked to me about their breathtaking journey in founding Myguvu. Myguvu is an ingenious platform that has recently launched. It aims to link individuals looking to improve their wellbeing with experts who can help them to do that.

For further information please visit Naomi and Megan would be happy to hear from you.

Reflections on Past, Present and Possible Future Learning Disability Services

Steve, a highly experienced and skilled Community Learning Disability Nurse Specialist, who has worked in this sector since the 1980’s, explains in a very accessible manner how services for people with Learning Disabilities have evolved, largely for the better, over the course of his career, as well as some of his fears on the direction services may now be heading in. He provides some particularly enlightening anecdotes on a variety of episodes that have occurred over the course of his career.

Bringing Pharmacogenomics to Mainstream Medicine

Mark Bartlett is an expert in pharmacogenomics, the study of how a person’s genes affect their response to drugs. He is also the founder of the health startup Geneix, which was named ‘Most Disruptive Startup’ in 2014 by TechCity News. Geneix has been trying to bring the use of pharmacogenomics into mainstream healthcare.

Mark talked to me about his vision of using pharmacogenomic data in everyday health settings to decrease adverse drug reactions and thus improve patient safety, the large scale impact this could potentially have on our health, as well as the huge challenges facing startups like Geneix in introducing an innovative product into the health care market.

You can find out more about Geneix at and you can follow Mark on twitter at @Mark_Geneix

Deploying Genomics to Combat Tuberculosis


For this episode of Health Care X-ray, I had the fantastic opportunity to talk to Philip Butcher, Professor of Molecular Medical Microbiology at St. George’s, University of London.

Professor Butcher was able to tell me about his fascinating research and the wide breadth of his ongoing work in the rapidly evolving field of genomics and tuberculosis (TB) research. This included discussing his collaboration with healthcare teams at St. George’s Hospital to provide a unique advanced diagnostic service using the bacteria’s DNA, his contribution in the development of much needed new antibiotics to combat TB, and his role in an ongoing effort to develop a new, portable, diagnostic tool for TB using advances in genomics.