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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Battle to pay for more scanner sessions
Lottery machine
The lottery scheme aimed to tackle stroke, heart disease and cancer
Many hospitals given lottery grants for MRI scanners are battling to find cash to run the machines to full capacity.

The problems range from the expected delay in starting up the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital's new 800,000 scanner when it arrives in the autumn, to a backlog in Tameside due to a shortage of radiologists to read the scans.

BBC News Online surveyed the 19 hospitals in England who received machines from the New Opportunities Fund's diagnostic equipment programme.

Seven trusts admitted a shortage of money or qualified staff was having an impact on the scanner's time in use.

Nick Webb, director of finance at Shropshire County Primary Care Trust, said it had scrapped plans to pay its new scanner's running costs for the last quarter of this year because of difficulties in balancing the books.

He explained: "It is not desirable to have expensive equipment that then lies unused past the point it was meant to be opened.

New opportunities for health - diagnostic equipment (England) recipients and awards
A MRI scanner's 4.4 ton superconducting magnet
East Cheshire NHS Trust 698,540
East Somerset NHS Trust 677,691
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust 703,876
Bolton Hospitals NHS Trust 674,942
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust 771,935
Barts and the London NHS Trust 807,451
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust 811,722
Royal Shrewsbury Hospital NHS Trust 652,121
Mid Essex Hospital Service NHS Trust 661,830
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust 615,667
West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust 679,863
North Bristol NHS Trust 749,116
University Hospital North Staffordshire NHS Trust 733,922
Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Trust 719,730
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust 683,692
Gateshead Health NHS Trust 708,034
Burnley Health Centre NHS Trust 662,317
Tameside and Glossop Acute Services NHS Trust 640,902
Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull NHS Trust 783,140

"But the trouble is the NHS planning system is inevitably very complex with lots of things happening at once. It is impossible to do all these things with the money we get.

"The MRI scanner has been clearly recognised as a priority for next year."

Stephen Gardner, director of planning and performance management, at Tameside said a national shortage of skilled staff was limiting its scanner's performance.

He said: "We would be delighted to switch it on if we had enough staff to meet the capacity."

Other hospital trusts reported more readiness to get the machines up and running.

A spokesman for the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust said its scanner was running 12 hours a day.

"It was fully revenue funded," he said. "We did all the leg work to get the support."

And in Essex, a partnership between the trust and a private healthcare firm keeps the lottery-funded scanner treating 16 to 17 patients a day.

Peter Richardson, from Mid Essex Hospital Service NHS Trust, said: "We don't have any major problems with revenue costs, it is part trust and part private funded so we agreed to operate a small number of private scans."

Vanessa Potter, a director at the New Opportunities Fund's successor, the Big Lottery Fund, said: "The MRI programme is giving people access to faster diagnosis and better treatment.

"Hospitals confirm patients are better off with these MRI scanners in place, they undertake to negotiate through the normal channels for further funds, where monies have been earmarked by Primary Care Trusts and other cancer trusts."

She added: "The Big Lottery Fund's policy directions, which come from the Department of Health, expect all grant applicants to be able to financially support the ongoing costs of running equipment the fund has awarded."




SEE ALSO:
Hi-tech scanner to be mothballed
06 Aug 04  |  Shropshire
Hospital defends scanner shutdown
02 Aug 04  |  Manchester


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