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Ground breaking study highlights the benefits of newer radiotherapy and diagnostic imaging equipment for patient safety and the NHS

Monday 16 November 2015

Key opinion leaders, radiologists, radiotherapists and clinical staff across England were involved in the study

The study’s key findings:

  • Lower reliability: 100% of respondents highlighted this as a risk associated with the use of older magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment and 80% for computerised tomography (CT) equipment
  • Lower diagnostic capability: 90% of respondents identified this as a clinical risk associated with the use of older MRI equipment and 80% for CT equipment
  • Lower treatment success rates and higher side effects: 67% of respondents identified this as a risk associated with the use of older Linear Accelerator equipment (LINAC - equipment used for radiotherapy treatment).
  • Lack of access to new techniques: 100% of respondents identified that older Linear Accelerator equipment does not enable the latest, most effective forms of radiotherapy treatment

NHS Supply Chain and York Health Economic Consortium collaborated in 2015 on a ground breaking study on the use of cancer treatment systems and diagnostic imaging equipment and the patient benefits of using newer equipment over older types.

The study is one of the first in this area and questioned key opinion leaders including over 40 radiologists, radiotherapists, clinical staff and service managers across England to understand the healthcare benefits brought about by using the latest equipment technologies and the risks associated with the use of older radiology and radiotherapy equipment. The study also included detailed analysis of the age profile of different radiotherapy and radiology equipment within the NHS.

Marie Whitaker, Head of Capital Solutions NHS Supply Chain said of the collaborative project: “ Through our work with various NHS trusts up and down the country, it became apparent that the NHS could benefit if it better understood the impact of the age of its equipment on treatment and the views of those treating patients. This led to our collaboration with York Health Economics Consortium which raised important issues regarding how the NHS manages the balance between the need for greater productivity and expenditure on capital medical equipment.”

The study reveals that the NHS has various pieces of equipment older than the recommended replacement guidelines and that significant investment is required to bring the equipment level base in hospitals up to date. There is also considerable potential to assist decision makers and other NHS personnel in understanding how equipment age influences overall patient outcomes and the service’s ability to provide the most appropriate treatments.

Nick Hex, Associate Director of York Health Economics Consortium said of the study: ”This innovative study of key opinion leaders, clinicians and health professionals shows that there are various perceived benefits to patients and the NHS by investing in the latest medical equipment technology. Patients can benefit from enhanced diagnosis, treatment and overall experience, while the NHS can carry out a wider range of treatment and diagnosis and benefit from productivity gains through reduced equipment downtime. By analysing the cost and utility of capital medical equipment, NHS trusts can ensure they get best value from their equipment.”

The study raised some previously unconsidered points regarding patient safety, with respondents stating that newer radiotherapy technology allows them to provide more targeted treatments with lower radiation doses, fewer and less severe side effects, as well as higher treatment success rates. Such benefits, it was felt, are harder to achieve with older equipment.

Respondents also felt that lower ownership costs were associated with operating newer equipment due to lower maintenance costs. As the costs to calibrate and care for medical equipment over its working life are a significant proportion of a hospital’s budget, a greater understanding of this can improve the delivery of services whilst saving money.

This study is the first step to providing some much needed expert insights on the subject which NHS Supply Chain will be sharing with the wider radiotherapy and radiology communities.

Notes to Editors

To explore the clinical benefits of using newer medical equipment, YHEC carried out a series of telephone interviews with key opinion leaders (KOLs), along with a broader survey of clinicians and other professionals. The two methods used were designed to elicit views from a variety of NHS Trust clinicians and professionals including:

  • Radiologists;
  • Radiographers;
  • Radiotherapy Physicists;
  • Medical Physicists;
  • Service Managers.

The research sought to gather the opinions of people with significant experience in setting policy around the use of medical equipment or who are experienced users of medical equipment. The survey provides both qualitative and quantitative evidence about the benefits or otherwise of new medical equipment compared to older equipment.

A number of additional clinical risks were identified through the study:

  • Higher doses of radiation: 84% of respondents identified this as a clinical risk associated with the use of older CT equipment
  • Lower treatment success rates and higher side effects: 67% of respondents identified this as a risk associated with the use of older Linear Accelerator equipment
  • Slower throughput: 100% of respondents highlighted this as a risk associated with the use of older MRI equipment and 76% for CT
  • Improved patient radiation safety: 56% of respondents highlighted this as a benefit associated with the latest Linear Accelerator equipment


Media enquiries:

Mark Fox

07710 966450

About NHS Supply Chain

All information in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

NHS Supply Chain is operated by DHL and managed by the NHS Business Services Authority. It supports the National Health Service (NHS) and other healthcare organisations in England and Wales by providing end to end supply chain solutions.

The organisation was formed in 2006 from the NHS Logistics Authority and parts of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (NHS PASA). The initial contract which was due to expire in October 2016 has been extended for a further two years until October 2018.

NHS Supply Chain is working closely with the NHSBSA, to build on the savings already achieved to deliver £300m of the opportunities for procurement efficiency savings as highlighted in Lord Carter’s interim report: Review of operational efficiency in NHS providers.

NHS Supply Chain manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products and food for over 1,000 NHS trusts and healthcare organisations. It provides a single point of access to over 316,000 nationally available, transactable lines ranging from bandages to sutures, from gloves to implants, and surgical equipment. In addition, it can help you plan your investment in medical capital equipment such as MRI scanners, linear accelerators and patient monitors.

Its management of the procurement process negates an NHS organisation’s need to tender through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Costs can also be reduced through its one-route solution that consolidates all products onto one invoice and delivery.

To ensure that its products are fit for today’s healthcare market, NHS Supply Chain works with suppliers of all sizes to ensure its range embraces high quality and innovative products; and engages with clinicians, the Department of Health and academic institutions to make sure that it is aware of the current requirements and latest developments in clinical practice.

NHS Supply Chain’s product areas include:

  • Theatres
  • Dental
  • Audiology
  • Catering, including food
  • Infection control
  • Orthopaedics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Capital equipment, including finance and maintenance.

Based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, UK, the business employs over 2,400 staff across seven sites.

Delivering value to the NHS