Cancer patients waiting longer for scans due to radioactive liquid shortage
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Cancer patients across Norfolk are having to wait longer for scans or travel hundreds of miles elsewhere due to a shortage of radioactive liquid.
Hundreds of patients, including those at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and James Paget in Gorleston, are experiencing delays in getting PET CT scans which is expected to continue into the New Year.
A PET CT scan gives detailed information of many types of cancer and can help to diagnose cancer, determine how big it is and whether it has spread.
Alliance Medical, which runs the scans at the NNUH and manufactures radioactive isotopes needed for them, said the delays have been caused by a manufacturing failure in November.
The issue has now been resolved but has resulted in appointments being cancelled.
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Alliance Medical took over the NHS PET CT national contract in 2015 and provides around 65,000 scans per year to NHS patients from 36 sites across England.
A spokesman from Alliance Medical said patients are being offered transport by taxi or having travel expenses reimbursed to nearby units to provide quicker appointments.
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He said 41 people have taken Alliance Medical up on the offer of reimbursed transport, less than 10pc of patients booked for scans.
He added: 'We are working hard to resolve the issue and apologise to those affected by delays and recognise the upset that this can cause.
'PET CT scans require a radiopharmaceutical isotope, and an unexpected manufacturing failure in November caused appointments to be cancelled. 'The production failure was quickly resolved but limited PET CT capacity at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust site has caused a backlog of appointments.
'We are working with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to increase PET CT capacity on the hospital site and plan to reduce waits by early in the new year.'
The company said it is working with NNUH to offer scans six days a week - up from five currently - and will be adding an additional mobile scanning unit to the site.