Hospitals spending millions maintaining decades-old X-ray and MRI scanners which are ‘obsolete’ and regularly break down hampering efforts to tackle patient backlog, investigation finds
Hospitals are spending millions of pounds maintaining hundreds of X-ray and MRI scanners which are up to 37 years old, an investigation reveals today.
Radiologists describe some of the machines as ‘obsolete’ and warn that regular breakdowns are hampering their ability to tackle the backlog of patients waiting for diagnostic scans.
The older technology exposes patients to higher levels of radiation and also produces lower quality images that can be harder to interpret, increasing the risk that tumours are missed.
The data came from freedom of information requests by the Liberal Democrats to which 69 out of the NHS’s 135 acute trusts responded.
This revealed that they have a total of 541 X-ray machines, CT and MRI scanners which are over a decade old and 41 have at least one X-ray machine that is over 20 years old.
Radiologists describe some of the X-ray and MRI machines at hospitals as ‘obsolete’
The older technology exposes patients to higher levels of radiation and also produces lower quality images that can be harder to interpret
The oldest is a 37-year-old X-ray machine at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust has the oldest MRI scanner at 20 years old and East Sussex has the oldest CT scanner at 17 years old.
Figures from 27 of the trusts show they have spent a total of £20million over the past three years repairing or maintaining their machines. The others failed to reveal how much they have spent, with many having taken out maintenance contracts that cover the cost of breakdowns.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Trust had the biggest maintenance bill, with almost £7.5million spent in the past three years.
CT and MRI scanners should ideally be replaced every ten years to ensure they continue to operate reliably and produce clear images.
Dr Katharine Halliday, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: ‘Over half of clinical radiologists do not believe they have the equipment they need to run a safe and effective service.
‘The situation is wildly variable, with some trusts using the latest kit and others using machines which are obsolete. This isn’t good enough.’
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘Having lost both parents to cancer, I know just how important it is that patients receive the highest quality of care.’
He urged ministers to ‘give hospitals the capital funding they need to invest in newer equipment’.
A Department of Health spokesman said record sums were being invested to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings ‘backed by £4.2billion this year and £8.4billion over the next two years’.