Ground-breaking study highlights benefits of newer radiotherapy and diagnostic imaging equipment

Key opinion leaders, radiologists, radiotherapists and clinical staff across England involved in the study

NHS Supply Chain and York Health Economic Consortium have collaborated on a ground-breaking study on the use of cancer treatment systems and diagnostic imaging equipment and the patient benefits of using newer equipment over older types.

By analysing the cost and utility of capital medical equipment, NHS trusts can ensure they get best value from their equipment

The study is one of the first in this area and questioned key opinion leaders including over 40 radiologists, radiotherapists, clinical staff and service managers across England to understand the healthcare benefits brought about by using the latest equipment technologies and the risks associated with the use of older radiology and radiotherapy equipment. The study also included detailed analysis of the age profile of different radiotherapy and radiology equipment within the NHS.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Lower reliability: 100% of respondents highlighted this as a risk associated with the use of older magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment and 80% for computerised tomography (CT) equipment
  • Lower diagnostic capability: 90% of respondents identified this as a clinical risk associated with the use of older MRI equipment and 80% for CT equipment
  • Lower treatment success rates and higher side effects: 67% of respondents identified this as a risk associated with the use of older Linear Accelerator equipment (LINAC - equipment used for radiotherapy treatment)
  • Lack of access to new techniques: 100% of respondents identified that older Linear Accelerator equipment does not enable the latest, most-effective forms of radiotherapy treatment

Marie Whitaker, head of capital solutions at NHS Supply Chain, said of the project: “Through our work with various NHS trusts up and down the country, it became apparent that the NHS could benefit if it better understood the impact of the age of its equipment on treatment and the views of those treating patients. This led to our collaboration with York Health Economics Consortium, which raised important issues regarding how the NHS manages the balance between the need for greater productivity and expenditure on capital medical equipment.”

The study reveals that the NHS has various pieces of equipment older than the recommended replacement guidelines and that significant investment is required to bring the equipment level base in hospitals up to date.

Through our work with various NHS trusts up and down the country, it became apparent that the NHS could benefit if it better understood the impact of the age of its equipment on treatment and the views of those treating patients

There is also considerable potential to assist decision-makers and other NHS personnel in understanding how equipment age influences overall patient outcomes and the service’s ability to provide the most-appropriate treatments.

The research sought to gather the opinions of people with significant experience in setting policy around the use of medical equipment or who are experienced users of medical equipment. The survey provides both qualitative and quantitative evidence about the benefits or otherwise of new medical equipment compared to older equipment.

Nick Hex, associate director of York Health Economics Consortium, said of the study: “This innovative study of key opinion leaders, clinicians and health professionals shows that there are various perceived benefits to patients and the NHS by investing in the latest medical equipment technology.

“Patients can benefit from enhanced diagnosis, treatment and overall experience, while the NHS can carry out a wider range of treatment and diagnosis and benefit from productivity gains through reduced equipment downtime. By analysing the cost and utility of capital medical equipment, NHS trusts can ensure they get best value from their equipment.”

The study raised some previously-unconsidered points regarding patient safety, with respondents stating that newer radiotherapy technology allows them to provide more-targeted treatments with lower radiation doses, fewer and less severe side effects, as well as higher treatment success rates. Such benefits, it was felt, are harder to achieve with older equipment.

Respondents also felt that lower ownership costs were associated with operating newer equipment due to lower maintenance costs. As the costs to calibrate and care for medical equipment over its working life are a significant proportion of a hospital’s budget, a greater understanding of this can improve the delivery of services whilst saving money.

This study is the first step to providing some much-needed expert insight on the subject, which NHS Supply Chain will be sharing with the wider radiotherapy and radiology communities.

Companies