Friday, 25 September 2009

NHS hospital equipment 'under-used'

NHS hospitals are not making the most of expensive equipment, according to a new report.

An analysis found that some machines for treating conditions such as cancer are under-utilised. The warning came from the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA), which obtained data from 187 NHS trusts in England under the Freedom of Information Act.

Among other pieces of hospital equipment, researchers from the TPA looked at linear accelerator (Linac), which delivers radiotherapy to people suffering from cancer. Each dose is known as a fraction, with the fractions adding up to a course of treatment. The report found the average usage of each Linac machine in 2008 in the NHS was 7,191 fractions per year. The National Radiotherapy Advisory Group recommends an average of 8,000 fractions per machine per year.

Eleven trusts achieved this level but there was wide variation around the country, with Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Trust providing fewer than 5,000 fractions per machine, the study said. Researchers calculated that if all trusts falling below the national average got up to the average, an extra 128,758 fractions could be provided, equivalent to 18 more Linac machines.

Katherine Andrew, a research associate at the TPA, 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."
Source: The Metro.

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