Health bosses are being accused of ignoring a major radiology shortage despite warnings from medics.
The department has been hit by a string of resignations and early retirements. The last two remaining interventional radiologists departed this summer. This means patients in need of emergency care for haemorrhage, sepsis and some cancer treatments must be transferred to Grampian or Tayside instead.
NHS Highland has fewer general radiologists today than it did eight years ago despite a 30% year-on-year increase in the workload, with potentially serious implications for cancer patients.
Dr Alastair Todd said yesterday that he was blocked by chief executive Elaine Mead and chairman David Alston from making a presentation to the board last year, when the scale of the crisis became clear.
Dr Todd, the health board’s sole remaining interventional radiologist until he retired last month, said: “The bullying culture is a symptom of incompetence, of a dysfunctional organisation which is not looking after the interests of patients or the interests of its staff.”
The former head of service for radiology was due to attend a meeting today (Thursday) about returning to work part time as a locum. However after his comments appeared in the press yesterday he received an email from NHS Highland cancelling the meeting.
Dr Todd said there should be 20 consultant radiologists in Inverness, but there are only eight or nine. He said: “I feel ashamed because of the patients who will suffer as a result of this. They will have to travel to Aberdeen or Dundee.
“It is a culture which discourages people from raising concerns. You can’t speak out. If you raise concerns they are addressed on a superficial level but nothing gets done, nothing changes.”
Dr Rod Harvey, Board Medical Director, said: “There are many things being done about the radiologist shortage.
“There is a national shortage of trained radiologists in Highland. It is more difficult to attract people into what is perceived as a remote area.
“We are maintaining the service by making use of modern technology. There are four or five vacant posts at the moment. We are maintaining the service with a series of high quality locums.”
Speaking about the cancelled meeting with Dr Todd, he said: “This has flared up in such a prominent way, there have been discussions with members of the current radiology department and they would feel uncomfortable with his presence at the moment.”