Columnist Dr Copperfield responds to Labour’s pledge to spend £171 million a year on new MRI and CT scanners equipped with artificial intelligence technology
So now we know: the solution to everything afflicting patients, specifically, and the NHS, generally, is… MORE SCANNERS! The Tories have banged on for ages about conjuring up MRIs and CTs, and improving access by putting them (and I think I’ve got this right) in shopping centres – let’s face it, there are plenty of units available.
And now Labour have doubled down on this with a pledge to spend £171 million per year on MRIs and CTs equipped with artificial intelligence. Which is fine, except that when you apply actual intelligence, this high-res vision of the future suddenly looks less clear and shiny than the public might think.
For a start, there’s the Cascade Effect, with every sodding scan revealing a plague of incidentalomas, each requiring further investigations, A&Gs and outpatient appointments. For every expedited diagnosis, there will be countless irrelevant issues clogging up the system elsewhere. Which kind of defeats the object.
And second, maybe the delays in getting scans are less about inadequate supply and more about over-adequate demand. By which I’m referring to the tribe now officially recognised as not being officially recognised as doctors, and therefore no longer able to pass themselves off as such. They do have risibly low thresholds for investigation, including scans, which they arrange themselves or pass on to us to sort. And it’s rude to say ‘no’, which is why I do, but many don’t.
Call me GP-centric, but the answer to this is having GPs making these decisions. The best scan of all is the one family doctors do with their eyeballs when the patient walks in. Because if there’s one thing we’re really good at, which secondary care doctors and primary care noctors aren’t, it’s diagnosing normality. And normality definitely does not need an MRI.
Which means – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – more GPs. Where we’ll get them, search me. But don’t scan me.
Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here