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The technology entrepreneur whose NHS smartphone app will alert doctors when patients fall critically ill today told how he had been inspired by his nurse mother.

A pioneering five-year deal was announced today between the Royal Free London hospital trust and the King’s Cross-based artificial intelligence firm DeepMind, a sister company of Google, giving it access to the medical files of all inpatients treated at its three hospitals.

Details of the contracts can be viewed on the DeepMind website.

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman said his mother Yasmine’s career at Barnet General – now part of the Royal Free trust – was inspirational in him deciding to agree to the deal, which could save an estimated 10,000 lives a year if rolled out across the NHS.


Mustafa Suleyman: NHS app was inspired by his mother

He told the Standard: “My mum was a theatre nurse for 20 years at Barnet hospital. She was an old-school matron, very strict, but so focused on delivering genuine care. That was a massive inspiration to me, seeing how someone dedicated their life to delivering the best possible bedside care. When I told her what I was working on, she was really excited.

“For me, having the opportunity to provide some quite basic tools just to make things a little bit easier is incredible. We estimate we will save 30 minutes per day per nurse which, in time, will add up to half a million hours a year.”

The Streams app will monitor inpatient blood test results in real time and send a “breaking news” alert to the phones of consultant nephrologists if acute kidney injury is detected. The messages are “streamed” within the confines of the hospital and no information is stored on the doctor’s phone.


Patient James Forde and lead nurse Mary Emerson

Acute kidney injury is difficult to spot from bedside observations but is a key indicator of life-threatening infections such as sepsis. One in five patients admitted via A&E have acute kidney injury, often caused simply by dehydration, and it is estimated to cause 40,000 deaths a year in England, a quarter of which are regarded as “preventable” if spotted quickly enough.

The Royal Free approached DeepMind in a bid to improve care that continues to rely on pagers and paperwork. The prototype app, which does not involve data sharing with Google services or accounts “under any circumstances”, goes live in January.

Mr Suleyman said: “The NHS is already the best value-for-money healthcare system in the world, bar none, yet has appalling technology. Imagine what it could do if we were able to deliver cutting-edge mobile devices with the best software systems and the best encryption.”


David Sloman, chief executive of the Royal Free, said: “This is a partnership that has the ability to transform the way we use information to save lives and improve care.”

Sarah Stanley, a critical care nurse, said: “This will revolutionise our ability to get information about how unwell a patient is. Acute kidney injury and sepsis are the two things we are looking out for. The sooner we get that information, the sooner we can stop it.”

  • An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.