BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBCs' Navdip Dhariwal
"Doctors have become increasingly alarmed"
 real 56k

Dr Ian Bogle, Brtish Medical Association
"In General Practice the problem is exactly the same"
 real 28k

Mark Harvey Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
"There are very few cases where we request X-rays whilst the patient is receiving treatment"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 June, 2001, 03:54 GMT 04:54 UK
Hospitals 'swamped' by X-ray requests
Doctors examining X-rays
Hospitals are having to part with original X-ray images
Hospitals are warning the diagnosis of cancers and other illnesses is being threatened because solicitors are swamping them with requests for X-rays.

They are having to hand over original films to avoid prohibitive copying costs when the images are requested for personal injury claims, according to the British Medical Association News.

Doctors are capped on the amount that they can charge for copies of X-ray images.

They say the government's refusal to address the problem is leading to abuse by solicitors, who in some cases are demanding whole records to fish for further work.

But solicitors have hit back at the claims, saying that the real issue is the way that hospitals manage their procedures.

It is another case of misdiagnosis to blame solicitors

Law Society spokesman
Patients have the right to obtain copies of their medical records, including X-rays, under the Data Protection Act.

The Act restricts the amount hospitals can charge for this service to a maximum of 50.

Little choice

According to the medical newsletter, this leaves many hospitals with little choice but to part with the original images, which can lead to problems with future diagnoses.

Doctors who cannot refer back to old X-rays when examining new images warn that cancers and other problems may be misinterpreted, or missed altogether.

William Saywell works as a consultant radiologist at Yeovil District Hospital, where a loan scheme was set up after copying costs spiralled to 18,000-a-year.

He said mistakes could be made when doctors were forced to rely on written descriptions of missing film instead of the original X-rays.

"You may read the description and jump to the conclusion it describes what you are seeing in the latest film and discount it," he told BMA News.

"However, if you had the two films next to each other you would see there had been a significant change."

General practice

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Assocation, told the BBC that both hospital doctors and GPs faced the same problem.

He said: "This is quite clearly a system that is wrong. It is costing the health service money.

"You get a request in writing without any timescale, without any thought of the patient being under treatment at all.

"We need to sit down with government ministers and work out how patient care cannot be jeopardised.

"The solution probably is a financial one: to cover the real costs of doing this so that hospitals can employ people to do it."

However, Mark Harvey, from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, blamed poor organisation in the NHS for the problem.

He told the BBC: "There are very few cases where we are asking for medical records whilst the patient is still being treated.

"It is perfectly possible for the hospitals to say we cannot release them at the moment because they are needed for treatment, or they are going to be needed back at a certain stage."

Mr Harvey said that if doctors had a beef about money, they should take it up with the government.

"They should not use solicitors as a scare story."

A spokesman for the Law Society said: "We are astonished by the suggestion that solicitors are swamping hospitals with requests for X-rays.

"It is another case of misdiagnosis to blame solicitors when the real issue is about how hospitals run their administrative procedures."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

So sue me
Has the UK gone litigation crazy?
See also:

18 Mar 99 | Health
Huge rise in GP negligence claims
16 Oct 00 | Health
Red tape 'threatens research'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories