Full programme transcript >>
In this episode of Case Notes, Dr Mark Porter looks at the treatment of poisoning.
He visits the National Poisons Information Service's centre in Newcastle, one of four across the UK where healthcare professionals can turn for advice when dealing with people who have been poisoned, either accidentally or deliberately.
As well as providing telephone advice, the unit at Newcastle also has an inpatient facility for treating people who have been poisoned, and it hosts the National Teratology Information Service which advises on, and collates data about, the toxicity of drugs and chemicals in pregnancy.
Mark meets Dr Simon Thomas who heads the team at the centre.
And he visits the call centre at Newcastle, where nurses, medical scientists and pharmacists are on hand to take calls from colleagues faced with people who've been poisoned.
Much of the information they use comes from Toxbase, a vast, constantly updated database on the diagnosis and management of poisons.
Paracetamol is the most common type of overdose in the UK, accounting for more than 20,000 hospital admissions every year.
Andy Brown ended up in the Poisons Unit at Birmingham after taking a massive dose of paracetamol when, due to severe mental health problems, he attempted to end his life.
He explains that, rather than falling asleep and never waking up, he ended up in Accident and Emergency in excruciating pain, with a failing liver and kidneys. His family were told he probably wouldn't pull through.
Thankfully he survived with no permanent damage to his organs, but others aren't so lucky: paracetamol overdose is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the UK.
Next week: Hair