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Funding stalemate leaves scanner unused

PUBLISHED: 16:11 11 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

RICHARD BATSON

A new hospital scanner is still sitting unused, a month after it was installed, as health chiefs try to overcome a funding stalemate.

RICHARD BATSON

A new hospital scanner is still sitting unused, a month after it was installed, as health chiefs try to overcome a funding stalemate.

The new unit at Cromer was built, alongside a new dialysis centre, in a £2.3m project partly funded by the

£11m legacy left to the local hospital by widow Sagle Bernstein.

But while the eight kidney stations have now opened, the MRI scanner remains unused because of problems paying for patients to use it.

It is a situation which has incurred the anger of local MP Norman Lamb, who has tried to break the deadlock of a "ludicrous" situation by applying pressure at ministerial level.

A similar situation involving underused MRI and CT scanners at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston was highlighted to visiting health minister Rosie Winterton in February.

She was quizzed by angry local doctors about why new scanners were lying idle while, under government guidance, a private company was paid to do the work in a mobile unit in the car park.

However the key to opening up the new diagnostic suite

at Cromer looks to lie in

talks between local health bosses.

North Norfolk Primary Care Trust chief executive Diana Clarke said that following a recent meeting with her Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust counterpart, Paul Forden, things were "progressing".

They were trying to find ways around the complex funding procedures involving patients needing scans, to allow local GPs to access the unit directly rather than via consultants. It was hoped those mechanisms would enable the local unit to be used - hopefully before the PCT came to an end in October, to be succeeded by a new Norfolk-wide health authority.

Mrs Clarke stressed that north Norfolk patients who needed scans were getting them done, but at Norwich rather than having the benefit of the facility on their doorstep.

The Cromer scanner was also designed to ease pressure on the N&N where earlier this year about 2500 people were waiting for scans, one-tenth waiting between 21 and 26 weeks.

A N&N spokesman said they were conscious of the PCT's problems in commissioning work through the scanner, and that next year there would be extra pressure to reduce waiting times further ahead of an 18-week target in 2008.

He justified building the scanner at Cromer, ready to come on line as soon as funding became available, because the other options were to scrap or mothball it.


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