HC Deb 13 November 2001 vol 374 cc674-5W
29. Phil Sawford

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to ensure that more hospitals have access to an MRI scanner. [12135]

Jacqui Smith

Following past decades of under-investment in cancer equipment and facilities, investment through the New Opportunities Fund and the NHS Plan will provide 86 MRI scanners for the NHS by 2004. These scanners will support the accurate diagnosis and staging of cancer patients, as well as increased access to an MRI scanner for other patient groups.

31. Patrick Mercer

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on waiting times for MRI scans in the hospitals in Newark and Retford. [12137]

Jacqui Smith

Waiting times for MRI scans vary according to the clinical condition being investigated and the demand on the service. A recent survey of MRI waiting times in England showed average waiting times for patients attending for urgent examinations, such as

cancer, of approximately two weeks, while the average waiting times for orthopaedic procedures, for example, were in the order of six months with a 10–12 month waiting time not uncommon. 36 MRI scanners are being provided through the New Opportunities Fund. All of these are due for installation by the end of 2002. Under the terms of the NHS Cancer Plan, a further 50 will be installed by 2004.

MRI facilities are not available at the hospitals in Newark and Retford. At present, most Newark residents are referred to the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, where the waiting time for routine appointments is around 18 months. However, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which has been responsible for Newark Hospital since April 2001, is working to establish better links between Newark and the King's Mill Centre near Mansfield. A mobile scanner already visits the King's Mill Centre and additional sessions will be provided in 2002, thereby reducing waiting times.

Most Retford patients requiring MRI scans are referred to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield where waiting time for a routine referral is around six months. The Health Community in Retford is investigating the possibility of using a mobile scanner or referring patients to Doncaster as a means of reducing waiting times.

For urgent referrals, the waiting times vary from one to 12 weeks depending on clinical priority.