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A year on — how new scanner has revolutionised care

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 05, 2012

CT Scanner

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IT resembles a giant Polo mint or white doughnut, cost £500,000, takes great pictures and is one-year-old this month.

The object is Burton's Queen's Hospital's computerised tomography (CT) scanner, a gadget paid for by public subscriptions drummed up with help from an appeal in the Mail.

Using X-rays and computers to take cross-section images of the body, it helps doctors diagnose problems and plan treatments.

So quick and effective is the scanner, it has proved invaluable.

Here, in a revealing interview, those most closely linked to the machine look back at the fund-raising effort which brought it to Burton, and explain how it has become a vital part of the hospital's life.

WHEN Jim Morrison, chairman of Burton Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Queen’s Hospital, watched as ex-England football manager Fabio Capello launched the Scanner Appeal, he could hardly have predicted the response which followed.

Young and old took his call to their hearts, with more than 1,600 groups, clubs and individuals organising fund-raising events such as cake sales and fire walks, ensuring the target was hit in an astonishing 18 months.

More than £6,500 was raised by the Mail’s Final Push campaign alone.

“The magnificent response from the public to our appeal was simply the most inspiring thing I’ve been involved with during my time at Burton Hospitals,” Mr Morrison (pictured above) says.

“To raise that amount of money in such a relatively short period of time was a massive challenge and it was very humbling to see how people from right across our area rallied to the cause.

“We could never have done it without them.” After the old machine failed and was judged beyond repair, the new GE Optima scanner was installed ahead of schedule — but only after a scare.

It narrowly escaped being held up in the wake of the Japanese earthquake in March 2011, but was still ready to receive its first patients by April.

The new machine was officially unveiled by Lady Hilda Clarke, the appeal’s patron, on May 21.

The technology behind the new gadget is jaw-dropping.

It can scan a whole body in fewer than 20 seconds, a far cry from the early days of CT diagnostics more than 40 years ago when it took an hour for a laboratory to produce a single image.

Now, the hospital’s scanning department sees thousands of patients a year, while its wonder gadget’s uses are increasing at a rapid pace, enabling treatments to develop more rapidly.

Figures show the radiology department has used the scanner to carry out approximately 8,000 examinations on 4,500 patients in the past 10 months.

“The figures speak for themselves,” says superintendent radiographer Aubrey Bettridge.

“During February 2011 we scanned 1,100 patients with both CT scanners in use, and in February 2012 there were 1,400 patients, an increase of more than 20 per cent on the previous year.

“The waiting list for CT scanning has been reduced for virtually all examinations to under one week.”

Due to the system’s speed, staff have developed a walk-in scanning service for some medical and surgical departments.

For patients requiring treatment for an ear, nose and throat procedures, for example, they can be seen within five or 10 minutes.

“We can’t produce results immediately but they are produced quickly to enable follow-up appointments with clinicians,” Mr Bettridge says.

“Therefore, the new system has allowed us not only to reduce our waiting lists but also to scan more patients.

“The last year has mainly concentrated on general scanning procedures.

“We are now slowly bringing online the more specialist tests for which the scanner also excels, such as colonoscopy and cardiac work.”

One speciality which has benefited from the faster CT scanner is urology, which has seen key tests and diagnostic tests for conditions such as kidney stones move from the X-ray department.

“In this way, clinicians get a lot more information, much more quickly and it has created extra capacity,” Mr Bettridge says.

“Progress is being made with certain other treatments too.

“For example, colograms. Instead of patients having to undergo a barium enema we can use the CT, which is a much gentler treatment and provides more information on what’s happening in the body, not just the bowel.”

 Radiographers are also receiving advanced training on the more specialist area of cardiology as part of the trust’s continuing commitment to develop a new catheterisation laboratory.

This will mean patients who now travel from Burton to Leicester for cardiac CT scans will be able to be examined at Queen’s instead.

“With the CT and MRI scanners we have seen a 20 per cent increase in workload yet still managed to keep waiting lists down,” Mr Bettridge says.

“That’s the type of capability our new scanning suite has provided.”

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