Radiology scans farmed out to external providers 400,000 times

22nd August 2018

An enormous increase in the number of scans being sent outside the NHS for analysis is a “stark warning” of a crisis in radiology within the Health Service, according to local Liberal Democrats.

Figures uncovered by the Party through a series of Freedom of Information requests reveal that on 398,000 occasions scans have been sent to external providers for reporting over the last 3 years. The number has risen from 121,000 in 2015/16 to 144,000 in 2017/18.

Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board sent scans to providers elsewhere in the UK on 24,199 occasions during 2017/18. However no information could be obtained from Lanarkshire Health Board who replied to the FoI request by saying:

“I regret that I am unable to provide the information on the number of scans sent to external radiology providers in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Scans are sent via Medica which covers both Scotland and the UK…I can advise that no scans have been sent outside of the UK.”

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid there could hardly be a clearer indication of a crisis in recruiting and retaining radiological staff.

Robert Brown said:

“Many people who undergo scans fear they have a serious illness. The NHS should have as a major priority the ability to carry out scans and identify the results quickly. The reality is there can often be a significant wait which is hugely worrying for people.

Now we know the huge number of scans going outside Scotland for analysis, it is clear what part of the problem is. It is incidentally quite astonishing that Lanarkshire Health Board, alone amongst mainland Scottish Health Boards, is unable even to provide the figures. If others can do so, why can Lanarkshire not even track the figures?

There is clearly a staffing shortage of radiologists and support staff in Scotland. It is only last week that the chair of the Royal College of Radiologists warned that the NHS was on “red alert” due to a shortage of qualified doctors.

This is a failure of workforce planning by the SNP government – something we have also seen in teaching and other professions too. It is time the Scottish Government published an annual report on workforce planning to allow a radical improvement in forward planning. Meantime radiology departments and patients suffer from the shortage.”

Notes to editors:

Total 2015/16120,533
Total 2016/17133,812
Total 2017/18143,983
Total (2015/16 – 2017/18)398,328

The Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request broken down by health board can be found here.

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