£76,817 - - the cost of clearing the X-ray backlog

The Western Trust paid in excess of £75,000 to clear the backlog of more than 18000 Xray films discovered to have been left unread in August of last year.

Following a Freedom of Information request by the Derry Journal, the Trust revealed that £8,297 was paid in overtime to existing staff members to deal with the backlog from the time it was discovered until the end of 2010.

In addition £68,520 was paid to an independent sector provider during the same time frame. It is understood that due to a staffing shortage the Trust has continued to employ locum staff in 2011.

A spokesperson for the Trust said that Altnagelvin Hospital is funded for 13.5 radiologist posts by the HSCB but that in 2010 an average of 10.8 of these posts were filled.

This has been attributed to a national shortage of radiologists.

The spokesperson explained: “The Western Trust has experienced major difficulties in recruiting to consultant radiologist posts.

“These active recruitment initiatives by the Trust over a considerable period of time have been taking place in a context of a national shortage of radiologists.”

He explained the Trust has advertised in both the regional press and specialist medical publications to fill posts in April 2008, December 2009, July 2010 and September 2010 - at which stage there were no applicants.

“The Trust has been engaging the services of locum radiologists in an attempt to deal with gaps due to unfilled vacancies,” he said.

This week Trust Chief Executive Elaine Way told representatives of Derry City Council that the Trust would be advertising shortly to fill four additional radiology posts which will bring the complement of staff to 17.