NHS patients exposed to excess radiation from out of date machines

Patients are being exposed to excess radiation because the NHS is using out of date machines, it has been revealed.

Medway Foundation Trust in Kent said it has been unable to replace radiology machines, which expired in 2020 and 2022, due to money.

The trust said in board papers this month that, due to the age of the machine, it was experiencing a “growing number of faults and breakdowns”. It added that, due to its age, no new parts are available.

The papers warned the old parts were causing “serious issues” with the imaging which could increase patient radiation dose and lengthen the procedure time.

According to the trust documents, first reported by the Health Service Journal, the radiation levels that patients are being exposed to are “within the upper limit of safe.”

The board papers also suggest the trust is using an outdated X-ray machine that is exposing patients to higher radiation levels than it should.

It said: “Until this equipment is replaced we cannot easily reduce the dose to patients.” It added that the trust “is taking other measures to avoid over-exposure, and has applied for funding to replace it”.

The news comes after chancellor Jeremey Hunt said he was giving the NHS £3.4 billion, including £2 billion to update fragmented and outdated IT systems.

As the NHS attempts to battle its 7.7 million waiting list for care, it is also facing a backlog of 1.5 million diagnostic tests. Within this, 287,571 are MRI scans and 172,079 are CT scans.

NHS leaders have repeatedly warned the government that a lack of funding means it has been unable to update and increase vital diagnostic requirements.

In October last year, freedom of information responses published by Labour revealed 48 per cent of NHS trusts still use MRI and CT scanners which are past the recommended life span of 10 years.

According to the NHS Confederation, the NHS now has the lowest number of MRI and CT scanners per million people out of the countries listed under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Chief executive for Medway Foundation Trust Jayne Black said: “Like many trusts across the country we are maximising every opportunity to bid for additional funding and utilising our limited capital allocation to replace essential equipment. This is part of a rolling programme over multiple years so we can continue to provide safe services for our patients.

“We have already invested heavily in diagnostic equipment, with more to follow in the next financial year. This includes investing in community diagnostic centres in Medway and Swale so patients have easier access to a range of vital tests and scans.”