Hundreds of people each month are now having key scans at a rural Northumberland hospital, thanks to a state-of-the-art facility officially opened this week by the area’s MP.
On Friday (September 10), Guy Opperman MP unveiled a plaque at Hexham General Hospital to mark the MRI scanner, which represents the latest development in an important partnership between Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and InHealth, a specialist diagnostic provider.
The state-of-the-art machine has actually been in operation for more than 18 months now, with the original plans for an opening ceremony put on hold due to the pandemic.
Since opening, the service, operating three days a week, is seeing around 300 patients every month for key diagnostic scans, including around 25 cardiac patients per month undergoing specialised scans and 15 arthrograms – high-tech imaging for musculoskeletal conditions.
The hospital serves a large rural hinterland in the west of Northumberland, meaning timely access to the latest world-class technology much closer to home for many, not just in Northumbria Healthcare’s catchment, but across a wider, fairly remote area with limited access to MRI facilities.
Dr Rahul Dharmadhikari, radiology consultant and director of the Clinical Support and Cancer Services Business Unit at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “Patients undergoing these scans may be nervous both about the procedure itself and what the results mean for them and their loved ones, so it’s important that these diagnostic tests take place as quickly as possible.
By having this facility at Hexham, in addition to the three scanners at our other sites, it means that a large number of patients can now access this service much closer to home, which can help to make them feel more comfortable.
Quick and accurate diagnostic testing so that we can start the right treatment as soon as possible is crucial to us as clinicians in ensuring we provide our patients with the high-quality care that they expect from us at Northumbria, and which the Hexham radiology team have continued to deliver despite recent challenges.”
The scanner at Hexham, which replaced a previous mobile unit, represents the most recent step in a more-than-15-year partnership between Northumbria Healthcare and InHealth, which has seen scanners already installed at the Trust’s North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Northumbria hospitals.
The collaboration, which sees around 30,000 scans taking place each year, was recognised at the HSJ Partnership Awards in 2020, winning the Partnering for the Future category.
Geoff Searle, InHealth’s CEO, said: “We’re really pleased to be able to formally mark the opening of the MRI facility at Hexham, a £1.5million investment which is just the latest step in our long-standing and fruitful relationship with Northumbria Healthcare.
We hope that this partnership continues well into the future, with valuable collaboration and learning that ultimately improves patient care and our ability to make healthcare better, together.
I’d also like to say thank you to everyone involved in the creation and running of this unit, including the team of InHealth staff who manage the unit day-to-day, for all of their efforts, not least for navigating through the pandemic and continuing to provide patients with access to the care they need.”
Mr Opperman was given a tour in the company of InHealth and Northumbria Healthcare representatives to see the facility which has already and will continue to support many of his constituents.
“I am delighted to be opening Hexham Hospital’s new MRI scanner, which will be a great addition to our local hospital, and deliver quicker diagnostics outcomes for my constituents,” he said. “I have always said I will fight for as many health services as possible to be delivered locally in Tynedale and this is a vote of confidence in our local hospital.”
The new facility has resulted in a greatly improved use of space, better patient flow, better staff facilities and a more joined-up approach to diagnostic imaging at Hexham.
The dedicated unit was created following the conversion of the existing records room and small offices, and now boasts a new shared reception desk, examination room, equipment room, control room, naturally-lit cannulation space with sub-wait and changing room, and an assisted toilet facility.