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Calls made to invest in imaging equipment

RESEARCH by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into the reliance by the NHS on ‘obsolete’ imaging equipment echoes findings from the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.


The Dispatches programme ‘Clapped Out: Is the NHS Broken?’, and reported by The Guardian newspaper, obtained data through Freedom of Information requests which showed around a third of NHS trusts in England are using ‘technically obsolete’ imaging equipment which could be putting patients’ health at risk.

IPEM has consistently called for investment in this area for several years and has made representations about this in response to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Clinical Imaging Board, which is made up of IPEM, the Royal College of Radiologists and the Society and College of Radiographers, carried out a survey back in 2017 of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment.

The report assessed the state of the UK NHS MRI equipment base, together with its usage and replacement plans. The results received represented approximately 42% of the UK installed base of MRI systems. The results demonstrated a wide variation in equipment ages:

•  29% of clinical systems were 10 years or more years old

•  Only 44% were aged five years or under

UK versus European countries

This compares unfavourably with other European countries. Only half of the responding organisations stated they had a replacement plan in place. There were no replacement plans for nearly 40% of systems that were already seven or more years old.

Compared with data from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the UK has one of the lowest number of MRI systems per million population yet performs 56.3 scans per 1,000 population, just slightly under the OECD average, clearly demonstrating a very high level of utilisation.

Dr Robert Farley, IPEM’s President, said: ‘The information obtained by Dispatches backs up what IPEM and the Clinical Imaging Board have been saying for years: We urgently need government-funded investment to replace outdated equipment to help treat patients safely.

‘Improved IT infrastructure for the NHS is also crucial and it will be a key enabler for all services, particularly in light of the challenges posed by Covid-19. Fully integrating IT systems across NHS Trusts and Health Boards is a long-held ambition dating back many years.

‘While this ambition has floundered several times, it will be crucial for the NHS as we move into a post-Covid way of working for the continued provision of safe, effective healthcare.’

IPEM response to CSR
CIB Imaging Report
Guardian story