It has been reported that around one-third of NHS Trusts in England are using “technically obsolete” imaging equipment that could be putting patients at risk.
A freedom of information request by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme found that 1% of Trusts in England have at least one CT scanner that is over 10 years old with 5% having, at least, one MRI scanner in the same situation.
NHS England published a report in 2020 that recommended that all imaging over 10 years of age should be replaced but with Great Ormond Street still using a 16-year-old MRI scanner and over half of one London Trusts scanners being 16 years old it is clear that these recommendations are not being implemented.
MRI and CT scanners are crucial pieces of equipment that are used in diagnosing a wide range of conditions from cancer to bone damage. Dr Julian Elford, Consultant Radiologist, said:
“CT and MRI machines start to become technically obsolete at 10 years. Older kit breaks down frequently, is slower, and produces poorer quality images, so upgrading is critical.”
“We don’t just need upgraded scanners, though; we need significantly more scanners in the first place. The [NHS England report] called for doubling the number of scanners – we firmly support that call and recommend a government-funded programme for equipment replacement on an appropriate cycle so that radiologists can diagnose and treat their patients safely.”
“We also need significant investment in the workforce. The NHS is currently short of nearly 2,000 radiologists. Only by looking at the problem holistically can we bring about real improvement to patient outcomes and cut waiting times.”
Coroners have also raised concerns over the lack of radiology imaging equipment and the shortage of staff and have found 48 prevention of death reports where these issues played a factor in the death of a patient.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care commented:
“We have backed the NHS with £525m to replace diagnostics equipment over the last two years and have recently set up 40 new one-stop-shop diagnosis centres in the community to deliver 2.8m more scans for patients across the country.”
“There are over 9% more radiology doctors compared to the same period in 2019 and we have provided £52m to further invest in the cancer and diagnostics workforce over the next two years.”
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