HSE to audit X-rays as radiologist put on 'leave'
A consultant radiologist in the north-east has been placed on clinical leave as an audit of his work involving X-rays and other scans gets under way, the Irish Independent has learned.
The consultant, who works at hospitals in Drogheda and Navan, has been placed on leave from clinical duties due to a health problem.
The consultant is understood to be still employed to carry out administrative work but is not directly involved in the reading of X-rays and other scans. A Health Service Executive (HSE) spokeswoman confirmed that a prospective audit of the doctor's work, involving an independent examination of a sample of his reports, is to get under way.
"There is no plan for a look-back review . . . a limited prospective audit is being undertaken of this consultant's practice and it is planned to initiate this in the coming weeks," she said.
The spokeswoman confirmed that a second radiologist in the region has been referred to the Medical Council after a review of an adverse incidence where there has been "a serious patient outcome".
The latest revelations come in the wake of the scandal of 58,000 X-rays in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin which were found to have been unchecked by radiologists.
An independent inquiry into the Tallaght incident is now under way and the hospital will not have the re-check of all the X-rays completed until next month. The review has so far found that one patient whose X-rays went unchecked later died and another was in treatment for cancer.
The spokeswoman said the radiologist was assigned to administrative duties last August, when it had been planned to carry out an audit of a sample of his work but this was deferred. The consultant has still not been returned to clinical duties but the audit will now proceed. The spokeswoman said it was the intention of the hospitals involved to make these form of audits part of the "normal governance arrangements within radiology and all other departments".
It comes two years after a major review of the work of a locum consultant radiologist, who also worked in Navan and Drogheda hospitals, in 2006 and 2007 found nine patients had their diagnosis of lung cancer delayed from five weeks to 14 months. Eight of the patients died and the review also found "major misreports without clinical harm" were made in the cases of another 270 patients.
The Scottish consultant who was in his 70s claimed that his overall workload, work environment and the mix of scans he had to carry out contributed to the failure rate. It is understood the hospitals in the region are still very dependent on locum radiologists. The radiologist who has been taken off clinical duties and the colleague who has been reported to the Medical Council are both permanent.
The HSE is currently conducting a national review of radiology services in hospitals across the country to find out if the problems highlighted in Tallaght Hospital are being repeated elsewhere.