Hospital admits x-rays not reviewed


Tallaght Hospital has admitted that almost 58,000 X-rays taken over a four-year period were never reviewed by a consultant radiologist.

Two patients received a delayed diagnosis as a result of the error. One of these patients has since died, while the other is under treatment at the hospital for cancer.

Some 57,921 adult X-rays were supposed to be reviewed by a consultant radiologist. However, the majority were reviewed by a “non-radiologist”, according to the hospital.

Tallaght Hospital’s chief executive designate Professor Kevin Conlon said he only became aware of the problem when he was appointed on December 14th last year.

“This is totally unacceptable and it arose from systemic and process failures. The Health Service Executive and the Health Information Quality Authority were informed that week,” he said in a statement.He said he immediately arranged for the hiring of extra consultants and additional administrative and technical support to help clear the backlog.

“Every patient who has an x-ray at Tallaght Hospital now has a report generated from a consultant radiologist. There are no unreported x-rays from September 2009,” he said.

“I now receive a weekly report on progress which just shows a back log today reduced by 34,752 to 23,169. The backlog will be cleared entirely by May.”

Prof Conlon said the technology now in place was delivering maximum output as staff worked longer hours and over weekends to clear the backlog.

"It is to the hospital’s deep regret that there have been two patients who have had a delayed diagnosis as a result of this. One of these persons is under treatment at the hospital for a cancer. The other patient died at the hospital last summer.

“I was informed of this latter case today and I am pursuing the matter with urgency.”

Fine Gael tonight said the sheer volume and period of time during which X-rays were not reviewed by a consultant radiologist was "astounding."

“The volume of tests involved and the period of time involved suggest a severe system failure and it is deeply disturbing that there was no check which picked up on this unacceptable practice over four years," said the party's health spokesman Dr James Reilly.

"Following on from other delayed diagnoses in recent years citing systemic failures, it is vital that full information on this affair is made available so that life-saving lessons can be learned," he added.

The Labour Party said today's disclosure showed there are still serious problems with the adequacy of procedures in our hospitals.

"We had been assured that the sort of systemic failures that came to light in earlier years had ended and it is shocking that the health and welfare of patients has again been put at risk by a systems failure that should never have been allowed to happen," said the party's spokeswoman on health Jan O'Sullivan.

"I am also alarmed that the review of the outstanding x-rays will not be completed until May. The patients involved deserve far better that this and additional staff should be brought in to allow the process to be completed within the next few weeks," she added.

Elsewhere, Sinn Féin called for a Dáil debate on the issue.

“The fact that over 57,000 x-rays taken in Tallaght Hospital were not reviewed by a consultant radiologist can only be described as a scandal," said the party's Health & Children spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

“This is hugely distressing for patients not only of Tallaght but across our health services. After all the promises of better governance and accountability in our hospital network following previous cancer diagnosis scandals, we now find that this gross neglect went on from 2005 to the end of 2009."

Tallaght hospital has set up a freephone helpline for patients and their families who may be concerned, 1800 283059, open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm