SCANS of NHS patients from Scotland have been sent as far afield as Australia for private companies to analyze amid a shortage of radiologists.
In total, more than 900,000 X-rays, MRIs and CT scans have been sent to teleradiology or commercial imaging companies for analysis since 2018-19, at a cost of nearly £30m to the NHS, according to figures published by Scottish Conservatives under liberty. of information.
So far in 2022/23, at least 141,341 scans have already been sent to private companies.
In 2018/19, the annual spend was £5.8m. In 2021/22 this had risen almost 37 per cent to £7.96m.
Since 2018/19, NHS Borders has sent almost one in five of its scans to TMC, a commercial imaging firm based in Barcelona and Australia, at a cost of nearly £468,000.
Analysis by the Royal College of Radiologists has found that Scotland’s NHS needs more than 100 additional consultant radiologists than it currently employs to meet demand, with the shortfall forecast to rise to 189 by 2026.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “I mentioned earlier examples of Scottish patients being sent south for NHS treatment because they can’t get it in Scotland.
“But now we have learned that half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent sending thousands of vital medical scans overseas, some as far away as Australia.
“Sending scans to private companies on another continent is not only expensive, it’s embarrassing.”
Speaking during the FMQs, Mr Ross also challenged the Prime Minister over the discharge backlog, which had reached the highest level on record in September, when more than 1,800 hospital beds a day were being lost to patients well enough to To go.
He said: “Patients are taking up beds in our hospitals at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds when they should be able to leave, and at a time when our NHS can least afford it.
“But the problems are not limited to our hospitals. We have seen reports of a female pensioner in Musselburgh that she had to call her GP 120 times before she was able to get through.
“The pensioner said that it was the first time in her life that she felt that she did not have adequate medical care.
“Whether the Prime Minister wants to admit it or not, Scotland’s NHS is in crisis at every level.
“Patient scans are being shipped overseas, waiting lists are at record levels, the accident and emergency situation is the most critical it has ever been, and delayed discharge is hitting our hospitals harder than ever.”
Nicola Sturgeon said the NHS would always take steps to ensure the quickest diagnosis possible and that despite Brexit and a global shortage of radiologists, the percentage of consultants in Scotland has increased.
Official NHS statistics show that the number of clinical radiologists has increased from 400 to 562 over the last decade, or by 42% full-time equivalent after adjusting for part-time work.
“The service is under significant pressure,” said Ms Sturgeon, but the Scottish Government is spending more than £100m on home care.
He added: “However, despite these pressures, the average number of bed days filled per delay is now similar to pre-Covid levels.”