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British radiographer exposes child to 50 times more radiation than necessary

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | January 11, 2022
European News X-Ray
A British radiographer exposed a child to 50 times more radiation than necessary during an X-ray scan
A radiographer in the U.K. has been deemed unfit to perform X-rays without supervision after she mistakenly exposed a child to 50 times more radiation than was necessary.

Camilla Hewitt administered "adult levels" of radiation to the child instead of the appropriate "pediatric levels" because she was "rushing," according to the Birmingham Mail. She also exposed another child to inappropriate levels of radiation and took an X-ray of the wrong ankle of an adult patient which could have prevented doctors from identifying the patient’s medical problem.

While the risk of developing cancer in the future for these patients was relatively minimal, “the fact remains that the patients were put at risk of harm,” said a disciplinary panel.

The first child was admitted in October 2018 to Walsall Manor Hospital in England for an abdominal X-ray. Hewitt selected adult radiation exposure instead of the correct pediatric setting. While the family was told not to be concerned since the incident was low risk, the child had to undergo a second X-ray. An investigation into the matter was launched.

"I was rushing as the [child] was wriggling and crying, and I wanted to ensure I wasn’t exposed when they were still,” said Hewitt. “I should have checked the exposure factors before positioning the patient and then before exposing.”

She added that she could have asked for help positioning the child and that she would consider asking for help from colleagues to “not get caught out again.”

But a month later, Hewitt administered adult doses of radiation to a second child. And just a week after this, she incorrectly X-rayed the left ankle of an adult patient instead of the right. This led the patient to have a total of three X-rays taken. "Her error in X-raying the left ankle had the potential to cause the injury to the right ankle, to have gone undiagnosed,” said the panel.

Hewitt, who was employed through the agency RIG Healthcare, performed up to 50 X-rays a day when she worked at the trust between June and November 2018. Following the latest incident, the hospital terminated her contract and notified the agency that Hewitt could no longer work at the trust.

"It is common for agency staff to be more experienced than the level of role that they are hired for. Camilla Hewitt was a band 6, but was hired to perform a band 5 role. When she started working at the Trust, Camilla Hewitt went through induction training along with other agency recruits. During induction she had to complete a series of competency tests before being signed off for work," said the hospital's professional lead for the imaging services and clinical measurement unit, who was Hewitt’s line manager, in a statement to the panel.

Hewitt later received a suspension order from the Health and Care Professionals Tribunal Service. The panel in February 2021 changed this to a conditions of practice order, following a review of her performance. But now it has determined that there “remains a risk of repetition” and that she remains impaired in her ability to perform her work safely and must be supervised until further notice.

Hewitt wrote the panel a note, saying that she was “sorry that my actions led to patients being overexposed. I understand that this could have caused concern and I regret if this has caused any feelings of anxiety to them. I will always ensure that my actions in the future are carefully considered and made to reduce any risk of harm to any person to the lowest level.”

Walsall Manor Hospital reported no other issues of misconduct before or after the incidents.

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