England report shows hike in radiation exposure

Potential patient safety incidents from unintended or excessive exposure to ionizing radiation increased by 14% in hospitals or dental practices last year in England, according to a new report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The health and social services care regulator said it received 1,103 notifications in 2014, compared with 968 notifications in 2013. Of the 1,103 notifications, 900 (82%) came from diagnostic radiology departments, with more than one-third of the errors resulting in the "wrong patient" undergoing an imaging exam due to poor handwriting or inappropriate clinical abbreviations.

The commission received 55 notifications from nuclear medicine departments, an increase of 10% from 2013, for errors similar to diagnostic radiology. The report also tallied 148 notifications from radiotherapy departments, which included repeated CT scans due to initial exams not fully encompassing treatment volumes or at-risk organs.

The CQC put a positive spin in the annual report, concluding the increased numbers "reflect a strong reporting culture and shows the confidence of clinical departments in our enforcement methodology."

The commission also noted the results should be put into perspective, given that some 45 million procedures are conducted every year.

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