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Breakdown puts scanner's future in doubt

PUBLISHED: 14:00 16 January 2008 | UPDATED: 13:36 12 July 2010

THE future of a much-vaunted hospital scanner is in doubt after a breakdown became the latest problem at the trouble-hit north Norfolk unit.

Cromer Hospital's MRI diagnostic service has struggled to get into gear since it opened more than a year ago because of staff recruitment difficulties - and now it is broken.

THE future of a much-vaunted hospital scanner is in doubt after a breakdown became the latest problem at the trouble-hit north Norfolk unit.

Cromer Hospital's MRI diagnostic service has struggled to get into gear since it opened more than a year ago because of staff recruitment difficulties - and now it is broken.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb is calling for an investigation into the saga - saying the facility was needed but the way it had been handled had resulted in a waste of resources.

That move comes as Norfolk chiefs are also put in the spotlight - as Kelling Hospital campaigners at Holt, concerned about bed blocking problems in the county, ask a High Court judge to review whether

the closure of its 22-bed Lascelles ward was legally done.

At Cromer less than a dozen people have used a scanner that costs £100,000 a year to lease, and another £56,500 to maintain, taking up the lion's share of a £500,000 building also housing X-ray and ultrasound equipment.

Now it is out of action and awaiting an assessment to see if it can be repaired at a reasonable price.

The scanner opened in December 2006 as part of £2.3m extension of Cromer hospital which also included a renal dialysis unit, and used £1.3m of the £11m left to the hospital by millionairess Sagle Bernstein.

The MRI machine came from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, which decided to install it at Cromer rather than mothballing the kit, in a bid to save patients in the north of the county a 50-mile round trip for diagnostic tests.

But its launch was delayed during a funding stalemate between the N&N and the former North Norfolk Primary Care Trust. Then shortly after it opened, it shut again because of staffing problems.

The MRI scanner, which checks internal organs and joints, should have been in use two days a week, sharing staff with the N&N.

But a prolonged recruitment campaign has failed to find three extra radiographers, due to a national shortage of such skilled staff. Advertisements have been asking for people with three or four years experience and offered a salary range of £21,985 to £31,004.

The machine had not worked properly since it was switched to Cromer, said N&N spokesman Andrew Stronach.

It was currently not working, having broken down at the end of last year, and was awaiting a visit from the manufacturers to do an appraisal.

“It is a question of what the company

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