HOSPITALS in Dorset will have their radiology services reviewed as part of a national response after it emerged patients came to "significant harm" at a hospital in Portsmouth.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it is reviewing radiology reporting across the NHS in England after it found that more than 20,000 X-rays had not been reviewed by a radiologist or an appropriately trained clinician at Queen Alexandria Hospital.

All NHS bodies have been ordered to provide details on their backlogs, turnaround times, staffing, and arrangements for routine reporting of images.

Dr Angus Wood, consultant radiologist and deputy medical director of Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said radiology at Poole Hospital had “developed an excellent record of reporting turnaround in all areas.”

“We set challenging standards for plain X-ray turnaround, which include two days post imaging for fast track patients, three days for urgent cases and within seven days for all other priorities. All other scans are reported on the same day with few exceptions," he said.

“Currently, we have less than 90 CT and MR scans awaiting report, and 80 plain X-rays - all well within nationally recognised standards.”

He added: “As is seen across the NHS the recruitment and retention of skilled staff is a continuing challenge. In Poole we currently have 1.5 vacancies for radiologists and five radiographers. We have used our experience and forward planning to predict activity and workload pressures and flexed our resource appropriately to meet demand.”

A spokesperson for Royal Bournemouth Hospital said: "We have the usual daily examinations awaiting reports but no backlog. We regularly review all our reports and if there are any outstanding, we would outsource these if we felt they couldn’t be managed within the team.

"We have 19.55 whole time equivalent radiologists and two current vacancies which are out to advert."

The hospital's targets include reporting inpatient examinations within eight hours, all fast track examinations by the end of the next working day, and assigned ultrasound/medical physics/plain X-rays/CT/MRI examinations etc. by the end of the second working day.

A CQC inspection discovered that three patients at Queen Alexandria Hospital had suffered ‘significant harm’, including the possible spread of lung cancer, after their X-rays were interpreted by doctors inexperienced in this work.

During their July visit, CQC inspectors also found the hospital had a backlog of more than 20,000 chest X-rays and that none of those from the preceding 12 months had been formally reviewed by a radiologist or appropriately-trained clinician.

They also learned that some junior doctors had been given responsibility for reviewing chest and abdomen X-rays and had complained about carrying out specialist radiology work without the appropriate training.

The CQC’s Prof Ted Baker said: "When a patient is referred for an X-ray or scan, it is important that the resulting images are examined and reported on by properly trained clinical staff who know what they are looking for - this is a specialist skill."