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Last week, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust was fined after an interventional radiologist endured significant exposure to ionising radiation.

Boston Magistrates’ Court heard last Monday (7th October) that the man, who was working with a CT scanner at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, received over two times the annual dose limit for skin exposure to ionising radiation in a timescale of just over three months.

As an interventional radiologist, his work involved the insertion of biopsy needles into patients, which was executed using the CT scanner in continuous “fluoroscopy” mode. This gave the man “real time” x-ray images which he observed whilst standing next to the scanner.

A number of other consultants used the scanner for the same purpose but adopted a traditional “step and shoot” method, requiring the consultant to vacate the room whilst the scanner generated x-rays. However, when the interventional radiologist began working at the hospital in 2011, he favoured the fluoroscopy mode, operating the x-rays for periods of up to 30 seconds at a time. Furthermore, when inserting the biopsy needles, the man placed his hands directly in the main x-ray beam, leaving them exposed to the radiation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation into the safety measures that were in place at the Trust and found that a risk assessment has not been carried out for the CT scanner in the fluoroscopy mode. In addition, managers were made aware that the scans were being carried out in this manner but failed to ensure that proper procedures were being followed.

Lincoln’s United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust pleaded guilty to breaching the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and was fined £30,000. HSE inspector Judith McNulty-Green said after the hearing: “The regulations require exposures to ionising radiation to be kept as low as is reasonably practicable. In addition there are dose limits which should never be exceeded. In this case the dose to the radiologist’s hands was twice the relevant legal dose limit.

“As United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS trust failed to assess the risk of this machine operating in continuous mode it led to the interventional radiologist being exposed to radiation for far longer and to a much greater extent than should have been allowed”.