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Clinical trial will treat cardiac arrests with placebo, publishing death rates will mislead public, and nine year high in last minute operation cancellations

People suffering cardiac arrest in five UK regions may receive a shot of saline from paramedics, rather than adrenaline, as part of a clinical trial to test whether the drug is causing neurological damage.

The Telegraph reports that the trial, which has received ethical approval from Warwick University will run in Welsh, West Midlands, North East, South Central and London Ambulance Service areas.

Advertising will run in the regions, and patients can opt out of the scheme, but Dr Martin Underwood, whose team is running the study, said: ‘It is possible that [adrenaline] improves short-term survival but few patients leave hospital and it may be at the cost of neurological damage.’

‘It may in fact be something that is custom and practice that is actually harming people.’

Also in the Telegraph, a warning that plans to publish surgeon’s death rates as part of the NHS’ transparency drive may lead to surgeons declining to operate on high risk patients.

In a letter to the BMJ, Dr Stephen Westaby, a consultant cardiac surgeon at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford explained the measure would mislead the public, saying: ‘To the public, surgeon-specific mortality data (SSMD) reflect surgeons’ technical competence, yet in reality team consistency and operating theatre practice supersede individual performance.’

And finally, the Daily Mail reports that the number of elective operations that were cancelled on the day they were scheduled to take place hit a nine-year high between April and June this year.

The Mail states that the NHS England figures reveal the mounting pressure on the NHS, but the Department of Health contested that the proportion of operations cancelled (0.8%)was the same as in 2005, but half a million more operations were being carried out.