Urgent brain scans for head trauma patients at Queen’s Hospital in Romford regularly take longer than the recommended hour, an inquest heard this week.
The scan of Christine Crutchley, a 79-year-old Romford grandmother taken to A&E after hitting her head, was not reviewed until 50 hours later, when she had already suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage.
A doctor at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs the hospital, conceded at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court that the trust has “substantial issues” with scans.
Nadia Persaud, senior coroner for east London, concluded Mrs Crutchley’s death could not, “on the balance of probabilities”, have been prevented but was concerned about the safety of future patients.
NICE guidelines state patients who come to A&E with head injuries should have a completed CT scan within one hour to allow for rapid treatment.
BHRUT head of radiation protection Dean Taylor said around a third of CT scans deemed urgent are not completed within an hour, in part due to a “shortage of radiologists”.
Further delays are created, he said, by the fact the radiology department’s system is “around 15 years old”.
He said: “We are probably one of the few trusts in London still using paper request forms. There is no joined-up way of making sure it all goes to the doctor.
“In May, we realised there are substantial issues in CT scanning for our patients. At King George (the trust’s other hospital), there’s… a backlog creating huge delays for patients.”
In response, the trust has hired a “CT facilitator” whose job is to “communicate with the department to make sure scans are done when they are required”.
Ms Persaud suggested the system should include a way to indicate whether a scan is urgent so it can be given priority, but was told this was not possible with the current IT system.
She said: “I understand you’re getting a new IT system, which will hopefully be in place by the end of March 2021.
“Until then, how can I be satisfied that if a person comes in over the weekend and requires an urgent CT scan, that that will be reported within an hour?”
Ms Persaud asked the trust to write to her by December 7 to explain how they would ensure all CT scans for trauma patients are carried out within an hour.
Mrs Crutchley’s death was recorded as an accident.