The Care Quality Commission (CQC) work to enforce the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations in England has been published.
The report gives a breakdown of the number and type of statutory notifications of errors received from healthcare providers in 2018/19 where patients were exposed to ionising radiation.
These notifications are where there have been significant accidental or unintended exposures, for example where a patient received a higher dose than intended or where the wrong patient was exposed. Although notifications relate to incidents where there is risk of harm to patients, the majority of accidental exposures do not result in harm.
In 2018/19, 43 million diagnostic imaging examinations were carried out on NHS patients in England, of which almost 30 million used radiation. During this period, we received 1,009 notifications in total.
Of all the notifications received, 796 (79% of the total) were from diagnostic radiology departments, 75 were from nuclear medicine and 138 notifications were from radiotherapy departments.
The report also presents the key findings from our 25 inspections of departments, either in response to a notification or concern, or as part of our programme of planned inspections, as well as details of our enforcement activity in this area.
In 2018/19, we issued improvement notices to eight NHS hospital trusts following concerns identified on our IR(ME)R inspections.
Professor Ted Baker, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said:
“It is important that organisations learn from incidents and take action to mitigate any risks when patients are exposed to ionising radiation from x-rays, radiotherapy or radiopharmaceuticals as part of their diagnosis or treatment.
“The number of errors involving patients is small in the context of the many millions of procedures undertaken each year involving radiation. That said, in too many cases errors happen as a result of inadequate checks, poor communication, or because of a simple failure follow procedures around radiation protection.
“CQC enforces the regulations to protect people against the dangers from exposure to radiation. We want this report to remind clinical departments of the importance of a strong safety culture and ensuring essential safety checks are completed consistently.”
The report includes recommended actions that providers can take to improve compliance with the regulations and the quality and safety of care for patients. It also shares examples of good practice to help leaders and healthcare professionals identify where they can make improvements in their own services.