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Trust’s huge bill for X-ray work to be done privately

Cash-strapped health chiefs at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust are paying out £30,000 every six months for NHS consultant radiologists to review |X-rays under the private sector.

The chief executive of the trust said it will have to continue to use the private sector until it |receives adequate resources to help meet X-ray targets.

Mairead McAlinden was in front of the Stormont health |committee yesterday, alongside the chief executive of the Belfast Trust, to respond to concerns over radiology services.

Last week it emerged doctors working at Craigavon Area Hospital wrote to the Southern Trust's medical director, Dr Patrick Loughran, to highlight concerns over patient safety arising |from the way X-rays were being processed.

Doctors warned that “any negligence claims arising from missed abnormalities on non-reported plain film X-rays may well be |indefensible”.

However, Ms McAlinden gave assurances at Stormont yesterday that there are no issues with radiology services at the trust.

She said concerns were raised by clinicians that all chest X-rays were not being viewed by consultant radiologists, but Ms McAlinden insisted the trust had taken steps to address the issue.

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“We have an agreement with an independent sector UK-based company who use consultants who work within the NHS,” she said.

“Until we get recurring |resources in to manage a system that is responsive and consistent we will continue with that arrangement, sending out up to 1,000 films to be read each month for six months.

“That is expected to cost a |maximum of £30,000.”

Colm Donaghy, chief executive of the Belfast Trust, meanwhile moved to allay any fears over radiology services at the Royal Victoria Hospital after it emerged 46,000 X-rays were not viewed by radiologists over the past 10 months.

Mr Donaghy denied there was a problem at the trust and said X-rays are viewed by appropriately qualified staff.

The Royal College of Radiologists has said that, ideally, radiologists would view all X-rays but when this is not possible, because of workload, they can be |viewed by radiographers or other clinicians.

Director of acute services at the Belfast Trust, Patricia Donnelly, said: “It is a matter of risk and |resource.

“It would be the view of radiologists within the Belfast Trust that the resource we have we would want to use within specialist examinations.

“While orthopaedic surgeons are very clear that they want to do the X-rays and want to look at them themselves. They don’t require assistance and we wouldn’t want to spend money on that.”

However, Dr Kieran Deeny, a GP and member of the health committee, raised concerns that while some doctors may feel able to read X-rays, they may not be adequately qualified to do so properly, which could lead to some conditions being missed.

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