The Minister for Health has signed a new Statutory Instrument governing the regulation of medical exposures to ionising radiation making HIQA responsible for the regulation of this area.
Medical exposure to ionising radiation is when a patient receives ionising radiation as part of their diagnosis or treatment, which could be from an X-ray at a dentist, a CT scan at a hospital, a mammogram, or radiotherapy received as part of cancer treatment. It also includes exposure to radiation for medical or biomedical research purposes as well as carers and comforters exposed to ionising radiation while attending a patient.
Phelim Quinn, HIQA CEO, said: “To ensure medical exposure to ionising radiation is managed safely, it is important that all the places in which a patient is likely to be exposed are regulated, whether the provider is public or private. The first step in the regulation of medical exposure to ionising radiation is for all organisations that carry out medical exposures to declare themselves to HIQA on or before 8 April 2019.
“This new legislation will be the first time that HIQA will regulate healthcare facilities in the private sector and have enforcement powers to ensure compliance with these regulations in healthcare settings”.
HIQA will examine the way in which patients are exposed to ionising radiation, including factors like how equipment is tested, the appropriateness of the referral, the amount of radiation given to a patient during a procedure, and the record of doses given.
It is now mandatory that HIQA will receive notifications of significant events involving accidental and unintended exposures to patients and will look at actions taken to reduce the chances of a particular radiation incident happening again.
Phelim Quinn added: “The risks associated with medical exposure to ionising radiation are considered very low. However as all procedures that involve ionising radiation carry varying levels of risk, it is important that radiation doses are kept as low as practically possible. It is also vital that patients are only exposed when the benefits outweigh the risks. Special attention for radiation protection should also be given to children and pregnant women and other vulnerable groups.
“The new regulations are in place to ensure that patients, volunteers exposed to radiation as part of medical research and patients’ carers and comforters are fully informed of the benefits and risks of each exposure and that each service provider has systems in place to optimise the radiation dose to those exposed.”
Mr Quinn concluded: “Regulation of medical exposures will help ensure that each hospital, dentist or clinic that administers radiation meets Irish and European legislative requirements. Regulation will drive better, safer care for patients”.