NHS trusts 'under-using' vital equipment
NHS trusts are 'under-using' vital and expensive equipment available to them, says TPA
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By James Christie.
Friday, 25, Sep 2009 12:04
By Sarah Garrod.
A report out today has found NHS trusts are under-using the vital and expensive equipment available to them.
The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) has said the findings of the report are "of serious concern", particularly given the current financial crisis.
The TPA says there is "great potential" to increase the efficiency of NHS trusts, adding that some of the most poorly performing trusts are in large population centres where there is high demand, such as Cardiff, Coventry, Hull and London.
Katherine Andrew, a research associate at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "These pieces of equipment are not only expensive, they are crucial to the treatment of people who suffer from a wide variety of conditions.
"It is simply not good enough that so many Trusts are failing to make the best use of their resources, and in doing so letting down patients and taxpayers. If those trusts that are lagging behind caught up just with the NHS average, it would make hundreds of thousands of extra treatment and diagnosis procedures available."
In response to the TPA's report, a department of health spokesperson said: "It is for local healthcare commissioners and providers to assess the equipment needed locally to meet the demands of the population, and to make the best use of that equipment.
"NHS imaging equipment is now being used more efficiently than ever. No equipment is used 100 per cent of the time, both so that there is enough capacity in the system to deal with emergency and urgent patients, and so that maintenance can be carried out when required."
The TPA said that using Freedom of Information requests to the 200 Acute NHS trusts, the researchers looked at how many times a year each Trust used five different classes of medical equipment.
The average usage of each Linac machine, which plays a crucial role in radiotherapy treatment for cancer, in 2008 in the NHS was 7,191 fractions per year. That is significantly below the recommendation from the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group of 8,000 fractions per machine per year - a rate which was only achieved by 11 trusts nationally.
The average usage of each PET scanner, used for cancer diagnosis, was 956 scans per year. That is significantly below the Department of Health (DoH) target of 2,000-2,500 scans per year. Only one Trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Trust, achieved the DoH target.
The average use of MRI scanners in 2008 was 4,912 scans per machine. If all trusts below the national average brought their usage rate up to the average, an additional 273,680 scans could be provided, equivalent to 56 additional scanners running at the average annual usage.
The average usage of CT scanners in 2008 was 7,424 scans per machine. If all trusts below the national average brought their usage rate up to the average, an additional 656,647 scans could be provided, equivalent to 88 additional scanners running at the average annual usage.
The average usage of lithotripters, to look for kidney stones, in 2008 was 457 uses per machine. If all trusts below the national average brought their usage rate up to the average, an additional 8,528 uses could be provided, equivalent to 19 additional lithotripters running at the average annual usage, the TPA claim.