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NHS scanners and x-ray machines are at least ten years old at more than a quarter of health trusts

Danger of decades-old NHS scanners and X-ray machines: More than a quarter of health trusts have CT and MRI equipment that is at least ten years old, audit reveals

  • Decades-old scanners and X-ray machines could thwart efforts to tackle NHS waiting lists
  • Staff shortages also pose a risk to patients as there are not enough people to operate equipment and interpret results
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital Trust has a 21-year-old CT scanner
  • The UK has some of the lowest numbers of scanners in the developed world


Decades-old scanners and X-ray machines could thwart efforts to tackle record NHS waiting lists, a shocking audit reveals.

A severe shortage of staff to operate the equipment and interpret the results also poses a risk to patients, experts say.

Officials advise that CT and MRI scanners are replaced every ten years to ensure they continue to operate reliably and produce clear images. But 27.1 per cent of health trusts in England have at least one CT scanner that is more than a decade old and 34.5 per cent have at least one MRI this age.

Great Ormond Street Hospital Trust in London has the oldest MRI scanner at 21 years old, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests. One CT scanner at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust is 16 years old, while St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in south London has an X-ray machine acquired 44 years ago.

Officials advise that CT and MRI scanners are replaced every ten years to ensure they continue to operate reliably and produce clear images. But 27.1 per cent of health trusts in England have at least one CT scanner that is more than a decade old and 34.5 per cent have at least one MRI this age (stock image)

Meanwhile, the UK has some of the lowest numbers of scanners in the developed world, league tables show. Germany has four times more CT scanners per head of population and five times as many MRI scanners.

An MRI scanner costs around £1million, a CT £900,000 and an X-ray machine £160,000. In total, the NHS in England has around 3,000 X-ray machines, 516 CT scanners and 425 MRI scanners.

Dr Julian Elford, of the Royal College of Radiologists, also stressed that the NHS was short of 2,000 radiologists, adding: ‘There’s no doubt there is an urgent need to upgrade imaging equipment in the UK. CT and MRI machines start to become technically obsolete at ten years.

Meanwhile, the UK has some of the lowest numbers of scanners in the developed world, league tables show. Germany has four times more CT scanners per head of population and five times as many MRI scanners (stock image)

Meanwhile, the UK has some of the lowest numbers of scanners in the developed world, league tables show. Germany has four times more CT scanners per head of population and five times as many MRI scanners (stock image)

‘Older kit breaks down frequently, is slower, and produces poorer quality images, so upgrading is critical. ‘ And Emlyn Samuel, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Diagnosing cancer early gives patients the best chances of survival so it’s disheartening to see how far behind the UK is in terms of diagnostic equipment.’

Coroners have repeatedly raised concerns about the shortage of radiology staff and scanners, mentioning it in 48 Prevention of Future Deaths reports between 2016 and 2021, according to Channel 4’s Dispatches.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: ‘Replacing or upgrading equipment such as ageing scanners, would help trusts make significant inroads into hospital waiting lists as well as increasing diagnostic capability.’

Saffron Cordery, (pictured) deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: 'Replacing or upgrading equipment such as ageing scanners, would help trusts make significant inroads into hospital waiting lists as well as increasing diagnostic capability'

Saffron Cordery, (pictured) deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: ‘Replacing or upgrading equipment such as ageing scanners, would help trusts make significant inroads into hospital waiting lists as well as increasing diagnostic capability’

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care insisted: ‘We have backed the NHS with £525million to replace diagnostics equipment over the last two years and have recently set up 40 new one-stop-shop diagnosis centres in the community to deliver 2.8million more scans for patients.’ 

Clapped Out: Is The NHS Broken? – Dispatches will be shown at 8pm tonight on Channel 4.

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