Belfast Telegraph

Children's unit only one in UK minus vital equipment

By Victoria O'Hara

The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children is the only specialist children's hospital in the UK that doesn't have an MRI scanner which can be used to speed up the diagnoses of serious illnesses such as cancer.

Until the new scanner arrives next March, children here face a 26-week wait to use the adult MRI scanner at the Royal.

A three-year fundraising appeal to buy a scanner for the Children's Hospital was spearheaded by charities and the public. It was heralded a success when it raised £2 million, and the Department of Health has pledged to inject a further £2.75m into the project.

But in March it emerged the scanner had not been ordered and would be at least another 12 months before it would be operational.

A spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust said at the time the project remained "on programme" and that it was at the "procurement stage".

She said the ordering of the scanner would coincide with building work so as to ensure the trust bought the most modern, up-to-date equipment on the market.

She explained the new scanner could not simply be placed in a fully functional hospital, but that demolition and building works must take place first to accommodate it.

This, however, raised serious concerns among parents.

Belfast mother Helen Skelly, whose little girl Leah is in remission from cancer, said it was a shame the scanner would not be available sooner.

"I really don't understand it. Why didn't this building work take place while everyone was fundraising?" she said.

"Six months is too long to wait for a scan. If we had waited and gone through the system instead of taking Leah to casualty she would be dead instead of in remission.

"This is unjustifiable."

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