After massive protests NHS England has decided that child heart surgery will continue at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust
After massive protests NHS England has decided that child heart surgery will continue at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust

JUNIOR doctors at Portsmouth Hospital were used to interpret tens of thousands of X-rays without proper training and as a result cases of lung cancer were missed causing ‘significant life-threatening harm’ to three patients, the Care Quality Commission has found.

During their visit in July, CQC inspectors found the hospital had a backlog of 23,000 chest X-rays.

Because of the huge backlog and lack of senior staff, junior doctors were used to carry out specialist radiology work without the appropriate training.

Portsmouth Hospital has such a staffing crisis that none of the 23,000 images from the last 12 months had been formally reviewed by a radiologist or appropriately-trained clinician. As a result, the CQC has now launched a review of NHS radiology services throughout the length and breadth of England.

Prof Ted Baker, from the CQC, said: ‘When a patient is referred for an X-ray or scan, it is important that the resulting images are examined and reported on by properly trained clinical staff who know what they are looking for – this is a specialist skill.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘Doctors always want to deliver the best possible care for our patients, but we can’t continuously plug gaps by penny-pinching and poaching from elsewhere in an overstretched service. Ministers must listen to the warnings of doctors, and to the NHS’ own leaders, and take urgent steps to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.’

He added: ‘It is deeply worrying that the body with responsibility for running the NHS is warning of the service’s inability to meet national standards of care.  Unfortunately, it is patients who are unfairly suffering the consequences of a clearly underfunded service. Waiting time targets for hospital care haven’t been met for years and patients face growing delays to see their GP as general practice struggles to cope with demand.’

In another disturbing development, NHS England announced yesterday that care will be rationed.

After savage Tory cuts to the NHS, NHS England says that the health service needs to be ‘realistic’ about what it can deliver with the funds it has got.

It warned of ‘tough decisions and trade-offs’ ahead, and that ‘affordability assessments’ should be made of future recommendations. Medicines which were previously available free on the NHS, as of yesterday will have to be paid for by patients purchasing them from their local chemist out of their own pocket. Those who cannot afford the treatments will have to do without!

The list include essential painkillers for those with life threatening, or terminal illnesses, as well as treatment for those who are rapidly going blind.

The list of 13 items that will no longer be routinely prescribed include:

• Homeopathy.

• Herbal treatments.

• Omega-3 fish oil.

• Painkiller Co-proxamol.

• Supplements glucosamine and chondroitin: Prescribed for pain in osteoarthritis patients.

• Vitamins A, C, E and zinc for age-related macular degeneration.

However this is just the beginning of NHS rationing. Among the announcements yesterday, NHS England also warned that patients may well be refused new drugs for heart conditions, diabetes and blindness if their local NHS board decides they are ‘too expensive’.

They further announced widespread rationing for cataract surgery, hip and knee replacements and IVF and warned of longer waiting times for A&E, cancer treatment, routine operations and scans.