SERIOUS concerns on radiology reporting at three hospitals, including Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, saw a national investigation launched.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published its report on radiology practices and found a significant variation in the timescales for reporting on examinations.
Their review also found a wide range of arrangements in place to monitor and manage backlogs of unreported images at NHS hospital trusts across the country.
This could mean a delay to patients’ x-ray results being shared with the clinician responsible for their care, or x-rays being examined by clinicians without specialist training.
As previously reported in The News, an inspection into QA Hospital’s radiology procedures found more than 28,000 chest x-rays of patients admitted to A&E were not checked by specially-trained staff.
Since publishing their report on QA in December, the hospital has worked to clear the backlog of 23,000 x-rays.
As well as QA Hospital, serious concerns were also reported at the Worcester Royal Hospital and Kettering General Hospital sparking the nationwide review by the CQC.
Analysis of the data submitted by 30 trusts revealed timescales for reporting radiological examinations referred from emergency departments varied from an hour at one trust, to two working days at another.
For outpatient referrals, the expected timescales ranged from five days to 21 days.
Cancer Research UK said called the CQC’s findings worrying.
Sara Bainbridge, from the charity, said: ‘Radiology scans are crucial in diagnosing many cancer types, so it’s vital the results are reported quickly.
‘It’s extremely worrying that this inquiry found that patients were not having their scan interpreted by a specialist at all, or had to wait a long time.
‘Efforts must continue to address backlogs so that patients aren’t kept waiting unnecessarily, and we welcome the recommendation to agree standard turnaround times and ensure images are looked at by competent staff.’
As a result of its review, the CQC has made the following recommendations:
- NHS trust boards should ensure they have effective oversight of any backlog of radiology reports; risks to patients are fully assessed and managed and staffing and other resources are used effectively to ensure examinations are reported in an appropriate timeframe.
- The National Imaging Optimisation Delivery Board should advise on national standards for report turnaround times, so that trusts can monitor and benchmark their performance.
- The Royal College of Radiologists and the Society and College of Radiographers should make sure that clear frameworks are developed to support trusts in managing turnaround times safely.
Professor Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: ‘While our review found some examples of good practice it also revealed a major disparity in timescales for interpreting and reporting on examinations, meaning that some patients are waiting far longer than others for their results.
‘We are calling for agreed national standards to ensure consistent, timely reporting of radiological examinations. This will allow trusts to monitor and benchmark their own performance.’