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Third of NHS trusts in England using scanners over 10 years old

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 28, 2021
CT European News MRI Ultrasound X-Ray

A similar predicament was reported last year in neighboring Ireland, where more than a quarter of the 69 CT scanners there were still in use, despite passing their life expectancy dates. One at South Tipperary General Hospital was still in use despite passing its end of life in 2013. Relying on this equipment increases the risk for breakdowns, which could result in longer waiting times, critics argued. Fifteen scanners were found to be outdated, with eight others well within their own dates, and the remaining 34 have no end-of date information available.

Further compounding this issue in England is the shortage of 2,000 radiologists. This deficiency is expected to triple by 2030, says The Guardian. A separate report by the RCR predicts that the NHS could waste £420 million (over $578 million) by 2030 if it continues relying on expensive outsourcing and overseas recruitment. It also anticipates a shortage of 6,000 radiologists by this time, as well as a shortage of 600 for clinical oncologists as opposed to 200 now.

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Additional concerns from coroners prompted Dispatches to assess five years' worth of prevention of future death reports that mentioned a lack of radiology kit or staff. It found 48 reports between 2016 and 2021 that connected a lack of scans and/or staff to a patient’s death.

The spokesperson for the department of health and social care also said that it has invested £52 million (over $71 million) in the cancer and diagnostic workforce over the next two years and has already made progress by adding 9% more radiologists than there were in 2019.

The British government, just this week, pledged an extra £5.9 billion (over $8 billion) to NHS England in its budget for new equipment, physical infrastructure and improvements to IT to help reduce waiting times for scans and tests, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. More than five million people are waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England, with hundreds of thousands waiting more than a year, according to the BBC.

About £2.3 billion (over $3 billion) of the funding will go toward more diagnostic tests, including CT, MR and ultrasound. An additional £1.5 billion (over $2 billion) will be spent on beds, equipment and new “surgical hubs”, and £2.1 billion (over $2.8 billion) on improving IT and digital technology within the NHS. A proportionate amount will also go to health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

While health bodies say the funding helps, they add that it will not solve the issue of staffing shortages.

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Steven Ford

Old MRI and CT

November 14, 2021 01:04

Just because an MRI or CT scanner is old does not mean that it's obsolete or even inferior to other equipment. This seems to be a presupposition of the article. Blindly replacing equipment because it's ten years old is as wasteful as replacing a car for the same reason. It depends on the needs of the user. Musculoskeletal MRI can be done effectively on 15 year old scanners, if other factors such as well-chosen imaging protocols, well-trained staff, and properly maintenance are done responsibly.

Moreover, older equipment can be extremely reliable. It tends to be easier to find techs who are experienced on the platform.

A prudent approach to managing healthcare recognizes that there is a place for 'chevy' imaging and a place for 'cadillac' imaging. This is particularly true when the real world is limited by budgets. If the NHS has 50 MRIs in a region, smart managers will hold on to a dozen older systems that are still meeting the diagnostic needs of the population.

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