Speech by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in Dáil Éireann on the Topical Issue on X-Rays

I want to thank Deputies O’Dowd and Naughten for raising this matter and I welcome the opportunity to brief the House.

In 2013 and 2014, questions were raised by clinicians working in our acute hospitals about the work of three locum or temporary radiologists.  The hospitals involved were Bantry, Kerry and Cavan/Monaghan. It is not believed that the locum or temporary consultants are linked.

These three reviews, in these three hospitals, have been completed and all patients who required follow-up investigations have been contacted.

The HSE has provided assurance that if patients at these hospitals have not been contacted by the hospital or their GP already, they have no cause for concern.

I understand that a significant number of x-rays were reviewed, but only a small fraction required follow-up and a repeat scan. Regrettably, one incident of delayed diagnosis has been confirmed. The HSE is following up appropriately with the patient and will provide whatever support is necessary. There is full open disclosure, in line with policy.

As part of the HSE’s risk assessment process, a review may require audit of work carried out by a locum consultant in other hospitals.  As two of the locum consultants also carried out some work in other hospitals, reviews in those hospitals are being undertaken.  In the case of two hospitals, Wexford and Roscommon, I understand that no patient safety concerns have been identified.

Drogheda and Connolly Hospitals are currently carrying out a preliminary audit over a short defined period of time to identify any possible errors or patient safety concerns. This preliminary work is being undertaken to provide assurance to patients that their x–rays and scans have been correctly assessed and reported.  In both cases, the period involved was four weeks in 2013. Reviews will be necessary in a number of other hospitals where the locums worked.

I have been assured by the HSE that none of the locums involved are currently working in any Irish hospital.   Reports, as appropriate, have been made to the Medical Council.

The reviews were carried out in line with the HSE Safety Incident Management Policy and the Faculty of Radiologists Quality Assurance guidelines.  All cases have been managed, escalated and reported in accordance with the HSE Safety Incident Management Policy.  Where further action was recommended, patients have been supported.

Radiological services will be improved through the new Hospital Groups. Within Groups, a networked approach will be adopted, allowing the major centres to direct and manage services. It will allow for greater quality control, quality assurance and frequent audits to pick up errors, and identify patterns and poor performance.