The health watchdog found that junior doctors were assessing x-rays without adequate training
A number of patients at a Portsmouth hospital have suffered “significant harm” after staff failed to identify cases of lung cancer, according to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
On inspection at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in July 2017, the CQC uncovered the cases of three patients who were injured as a result of their chest x-rays not being properly assessed. Two of the patients have since died.
The inspection also found that junior doctors had been given the responsibility of reviewing chest and abdomen x-rays without receiving the proper training and without feeling confident enough to do so. They also identified a backlog of 23,000 x-ray images from the previous 12 months which had not been reviewed by an appropriately-trained medical professional.
"However, in situations such as this, it’s clear to see the NHS staff shortage and lack of government funding having a serious, life-threatening effect. It’s crucial that the NHS is provided with more funding to ensure fully-trained staff can be employed so that the job isn’t left to inexperienced junior doctors."
This is the second time the CQC has visited the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, following an initial inspection in May 2017 which highlighted poor governance procedures in the trust’s radiology department. The Trust was then told to review and identify potential patient risk and harm, but now fresh warnings have emerged from the independent health regulator, for the Queen Alexandra Hospital to take immediate action to ensure patient x-rays are reviewed and assessed by appropriately trained clinicians.
Commenting on the investigation, Thompsons Solicitors’ medical negligence expert, Linda Millband, said: “To learn that thousands of x-rays were never formally reviewed by trained specialists is extremely concerning, and not something that should be happening in our modern day medical profession. It’s vital that x-rays and medical scans are reviewed quickly and comprehensively, as failure to do so can lead to potentially life-threatening complications, as has been shown in this case.”
The CQC will now be revising methods for reviewing x-rays and radiology reports at NHS trusts across England. It has also placed four conditions for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust to follow:
- It must prioritise the backlog of unreported images to assess if there has been any further damage and, if so, contact the patients immediately
- It has to implement procedures to avoid this happening again
- The details of how the backlog will be dealt with must be sent to the CQC
- The Trust must report to CQC every week.
Ms Millband continued: “We have seen the devastating impact misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses can cause; from the exacerbation of personal and serious injuries, to the need for amputation. These are, of course, avoidable if the appropriate procedures are in place to ensure experienced medical professionals are on hand to diagnose and treat patients effectively.
“However, in situations such as this, it’s clear to see the NHS staff shortage and lack of government funding having a serious, life-threatening effect. It’s crucial that the NHS is provided with more funding to ensure fully-trained staff can be employed so that the job isn’t left to inexperienced junior doctors.
“We will be watching this news develop and await the results of the nationwide review by the CQC. The aim must be for the review to lead to a higher standard of practice in the UK medical profession in the future.”
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