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Health / Portable x-ray machine to be trialled in GP surgeries

Less patient travel is one key aim of the NHS Shetland project

A THREE-month trial is set to take place in Shetland allowing people to have x-rays at GP surgeries instead of the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.

The hope is that it will result in less cancellations and reduced travelling for patients.

The x-rays will become possible thanks to a battery powered machine which weighs only 3.5kg.

The Fuji Xair sits on a camera tripod and is fully portable.

An image from the machine’s brochure.

Behind the project is NHS Shetland’s head of medical imaging Lucy Wilson.

The health board said there were multiple benefits of a portable x-ray system – primarily cutting travel for patients.

Lower demand for patient transport would also be of benefit to the Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS Shetland said.

There is a hope that it would reduce weather-related cancellations.

Due to the limitations on space and the need to enable safe social distancing for patients, Wilson also felt eliminating the need for some patients to attend the hospital setting was another driver, especially through the winter months where vulnerable patients are at higher risk of contracting illnesses.

Wilson said she wishes to be able to offer a more patient-focused service, in line with such services as ‘Near me’ and ‘Hospital at Home’, which has never before been an option for radiology before in Shetland.

So how will it work in practice? The trial will see the equipment taken to select, remote GP practices on a set day of the week.

It will allow patients to receive a plain film x-ray examination at their local surgery, or one located closer to them than the hospital.

For the initial trial only a limited number of GP practices will be involved, but if it proves a success radiology staff will look to extend the service.

The names of practices involved in the trial have not yet been confirmed.

In addition – and only if radiation protection regulations allowed – Wilson would like to provide a mobile service to care home residents.

This would be targeted to those whose are too frail to attend hospital, but whose treatment pathways would be altered if they were able to receive a chest x-ray.

For the trial, the GP practices selected will refer to the main x-ray department as usual.

Patients deemed suitable for the remote clinic will be contacted and offered the opportunity to have their examination performed at a GP surgery near their home address.

Each patient has the right to decline the remote service.

The remote clinics will be provided on set days and for set hours, to coincide with service demand and room availability at the GP surgeries.

The suitability of patients will be determined by the urgency of their examination requirements, the type of examination required, and the x-ray parameters required to achieve the best quality image.