New MRI scanners for the NHS: Fact vs fiction

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Johnson has promised £200 million to replace MRI, CT scanners and breast cancer screening equipment, and committed to ensure “no scanner in the NHS is more than 10 years old.”

Fact: 31st of 37 countries

This is a wilful deception.

On the most recent OECD comparisons the UK comes 31st of 37 countries on provision of MRI scanners, with 6.1 per million population. Only Russia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Hungary, Israel and Colombia have fewer MRI scanners per head.

And on CT scanners the picture is even worse, with the UK 35th of 38 with just nine scanners per million population. Only Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico have fewer per head.

According to the Health Foundation Britain has less than a third of the number of scanners per head compared with Germany.

“We have calculated that bringing the UK up to the average number of scanners [in the EU 15] would require around £1.5bn in extra capital spending.”

Money for new kit alone is not enough: staff are needed to operate the machinery and report scan results:

“It is uncertain whether this money can truly help create the extra capacity needed in cancer services given major NHS workforce shortages across the country.”

Meanwhile NHS England is pressing ahead with its plan to privatise PET-CT scanning services, pushing through a contract in Oxfordshire in the teeth of opposition from all parties and the Tory-led county council, with more such contracts being rolled out across the country.

Find out how much underfunding has affected availability of staff and specialist equipment in your area using our app.

This article was first published in Health Campaigns Together election special.

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