BACKLOGS in hospital imaging departments has been causing concern for two years, says the Royal College of Radiologists.
Dr Nicola Strickland, president of organisation, said serious problems were first highlighted to them in 2015 and departments are struggling.
Her comments come after a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into Queen Alexandra Hospital found they had a backlog of 23,000 chest and abdomen X-rays that had not been reviewed by a radiologist.
When inspecting the Cosham site in July, the CQC found people who had chest or abdomen X-rays after attending A&E within the last two years might not have had the X-rays looked at by a specially-trained clinician.
The backlog does not include CT or MRI scans or other types of scans such as mammograms.
Dr Strickland said: ‘The issue of reporting backlogs in imaging departments has been a major concern for the RCR for some time.
‘We first highlighted this serious problem in March 2015.
‘Over the past three years, the RCR has repeatedly warned that imaging departments are struggling – with the UK’s radiologist workforce not growing anywhere near fast enough to cope with the ever-increasing need for scans.
‘In England alone, from 2013 to 2016 the number of patient CT and MRI scans grew at three times the rate of the number of radiologist doctors available to report on them.
‘Meanwhile, many UK hospitals are unable to fill radiologist jobs, with two-thirds of vacant posts lying empty for at least 12 months.’
Dr Strickland said investment in radiologists is crucial if the problem is going to be resolved.
She added: ‘The only lasting solution is to get to grips with radiologist shortages.
‘Unless there is substantially more investment in training more UK radiologists, and – in the immediate short-term – in recruiting fully-trained radiologists from overseas, unreported scans will continue to mount up.
‘We only hope that following the Portsmouth review the governments and the NHS across the UK will finally wake up and address this urgent nationwide problem. We are more than willing to help in any way we can.’
Professor Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, has now launched a review calling for all acute NHS hospitals to report their X-ray and radiology procedures.
As previously reported in The News, in three cases at QA Hospital, X-rays not being reviewed by a specially-trained clinician saw staff miss signs of lung cancer which were later picked up by radiologists after patients asked for a second X-ray, revealing the diseases.
Investigations into the three patients, two of which have now died, showed symptoms of lung cancer were noticeable on the initial X-ray.
Chief executive of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA Hospital, has offered his sincere apologies to all patients affected.
He said: ‘It is totally unacceptable that any patient has suffered harm as a result of delays in our clinicians reaching the appropriate diagnosis.
‘We want to offer a very sincere apology to patients and their families, in particular the three patients specifically mentioned in the report.’