PATIENTS have spoken out after waiting months for a scan at a Dorset hospital.
Pensioners were left waiting for five months because just one person at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester was trained to use DEXA or bone density scan equipment, it has been revealed.
A letter of apology to the patients from chief executive Jean O’Callaghan states that delays were down to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.
But West Dorset District and Dorset County Councillor Ros Kayes said that waiting times were due to extended sick leave of the one employee who was able to use the equipment.
Two patients, who were happy to be photographed, but did not want to be named, received letters of apology from the hospital.
One woman, who is in her 80s, was referred for a DEXA scan by her Bridport GP after suffering a number of fractures.
The scan checks the strength of bones and can be used to diagnose conditions such as osteoporosis.
The referral was made in September and the appointment came through last week, Coun Kayes said.
Another patient was referred for a scan in August and is still waiting for an appointment.
The letter from DCH reads: “The department is aware of the risks of having one employee who can undertake the DEXA scans.”
But it ends with the statement: “Regrettably, at this present time, the department is unable to confirm when you will be able to receive your DEXA scan.”
Coun Kayes, who represents the Bridport North Ward on the district council and is also the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman for West Dorset, described understaffing as ‘an extremely serious issue’.
She said: “It looks as if there has been a failure to have sufficient staff available, possibly to cut costs, but you can’t cut costs with patient care.
“It beggars belief that a hospital, which describes itself as serving the county, employed only one person to perform this function.
“How many people have had assessments delayed in this way?
“Every delay in assessment is a delay in treatment.”
Coun Kayes added: “Although I understand that the trust is now training a Fracture Prevention Nurse and two members of the Radiology department to use the equipment, I am aware that GPs were not informed of the delay to DEXA provision and kept referring people for scans at Dorchester all through the summer and the autumn.”
“If they had been told, they could have referred them to Yeovil, where the scans would have been done quicker,” Coun Kayes added.
A SPOKESMAN for Dorset County Hospital said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, there is a backlog of patients awaiting a bone density scan and we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“Arrangements are in place for other staff to perform scans and we are looking at additional capacity to reduce the backlog as soon as possible.”