Managed Diagnostic Imaging Clinical Network (Emergency Teams)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 7th October 2010.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 12:00 pm, 7th October 2010

To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking in response to the report by the managed diagnostic imaging clinical network showing that specialist emergency teams are not on call in many major hospitals. (S3F-2627)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government commissioned the review and welcomes the report, which describes the many areas of good practice in radiology. It also points to the opportunities for national health service boards to collaborate in providing out-of-hours care for such specialist treatment. We expect NHS boards and clinicians to take the report into account in planning their services.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Half of Scots who suffer internal bleeding have no out-of-hours access to state-of-the-art interventional radiology treatment. Doctors have warned that dozens of patients are dying because 10 health boards, including NHS Highland, fail to provide that service out of hours. Hospitals have been fitted with specialist treatment rooms, yet many of them are sitting unused outside normal hours. Given that such medical emergencies affect about 7,000 Scots every year, will the First Minister assure me that he is doing everything in his power to end the postcode lottery of access to potentially life-saving treatment?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I say again that we commissioned the review and we welcome the report. Jamie Stone should be careful before taking press reports at face value.

Dr Iain Robertson, lead clinician on the managed diagnostic imaging clinical network, and one of the report's authors, has said:

"The recent press article misrepresents the report content and purpose. It would be a great pity if this article was to impair the collaborative work that we should undertake to further improve access to this service."

It is not just a commitment on radiology in the future that I can give to Jamie Stone; I can tell him what has happened over the past few years. At March 2009, NHS Scotland spent £230 million on radiology services compared with £178 million in 2007—an increase of 22 per cent.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I return the First Minister to the report and quote the following:

"We could not within the report, and should not make any estimate of mortality for centres without formal access as a number of potential outcomes could occur including successful conservative management, provision of an ad hoc/informal service or transfer to a neighbouring centre."

Does the First Minister agree that the headline in Scotland on Sunday that said "Patients dying", was, to put it politely, not only misleading but scaremongering?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I refer again to what one of the report's authors said about the newspaper report. We commissioned that report precisely because we wanted to see where improvements could be made. The thrust of the report is about using skilled staff and equipment imaginatively, but working across traditional health board boundaries to provide out-of-hours care in an improved fashion. The report recognises that after the increases in expenditure on radiology the issue is not fundamentally one of resource and that access could be improved without major resource investment. It was precisely to get that sort of informed dialogue and information that we commissioned the report. We welcome the report's findings, albeit not all the press coverage that surrounded them.

Meeting suspended until 14:15.

On resuming—