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News / Appeal launched for £2m MRI scanner

Gwen Angus and Emma Williamson

NHS SHETLAND has launched a campaign to raise £2 million to pay for an MRI scanner for the isles.

The hi-tech machine can diagnose cancer, strokes, heart conditions and many other conditions and it would complement a CT scanner that was bought in 2007 following a massive public drive.

Having the MRI scanner at Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick should help cut out journeys to Aberdeen for the 675 Shetland patients per year who must travel to have an MRI scan.

According to the NHS, the number of patients who need them is steadily increasing.

Shetland Health Board Endowment Fund aims to raise the cash through a combination of grant funding and a public fundraising campaign, with the effort expected to take two years.

Supporting the campaign are Island Medics stars Emma Williamson and Gwen Angus, who are senior staff nurses in the Gilbert Bain accident and emergency department.

Williamson said on Wednesday: “We are supporting the campaign because an MRI scanner in Shetland will make a huge difference to patients. The power of a diagnosis should never be underestimated. This is a big challenge, so we need to make raising funds as lightsome as we can.”

At present there can be delays in getting an MRI scan due to bad weather, transport hiccups and logistical problems in getting short notice appointments or one stop clinics.

There is also the challenge of making the journey itself, which can involve time off work, and may impact family life and childcare at an already difficult time.

A Shetland based scanner would bring quicker access to diagnostic tests and reduce unnecessary patient travel, stress and inconvenience. The savings in patient travel will be put towards staffing the MRI scanner. The machine would housed in a stand alone unit that can be accessed from the hospital.

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The MRI can also be used to diagnose cancer, strokes, heart conditions, childhood disease and disability, liver problems, spinal cord injury, arthritis bone and joint damage, brain injury and tumours, eye conditions, chronic back pain, sciatica, slipped discs and many other conditions.

Shetland Health Board Endowment Fund chairwoman Lisa Ward said: “Any of us could need an MRI scan at some point in our lives. Grant funding will be applied for and cover some of the costs but the Shetland community will need to get together and raise a good chunk of the total to make sure it happens”.

She said that many of the fun ways the public can help raise the funds are detailed in the SCAN – Shetland Can! Website 

The launch of the campaign coincides with the 70th anniversary of the NHS, bringing a commitment to the service from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and health secretary Jeanne Freeman.

Speaking at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, Sturgeon said: “It was a pleasure to be able to celebrate this special birthday at the Royal Hospital for Children, with the patients and staff who make the health service the treasured institution that it is.

“Our NHS has gone from strength to strength over the past 70 years, and this anniversary is an opportunity to appreciate the vital role the service plays in all our lives.”

It was also time to reaffirm the government’s commitment to the founding principles of the NHS – that healthcare should be provided free at the point of need, she said. Funding and staffing levels were both at record highs.

Freeman added: “Since 1948 the NHS has delivered huge medical advances and improvements to public health, letting many more of us live longer, healthier lives.

“The NHS has all but eradicated diseases such as polio and diphtheria, and Scotland itself has a long and proud history of delivering medical advances, such as the establishment of ultrasound, the UK’s first successful kidney transplant and advances in the use of keyhole surgery.

“As we look to the future we want to ensure Scotland’s NHS continues to be a world-leader in compassionate, quality healthcare. I look forward to working closely with our health service staff as we build on our successes and create services that are fit for the future.”

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