A new £1million state-of-the-art MRI scanner has been officially opened.
The new piece of equipment is already transforming care for patients at Wansbeck General Hospital, in Ashington.
Newcastle band Lindisfarne and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery met patients and staff when they unveiled a plaque to open the scanner and refurbished unit yesterday.
The new scanner offers patients who need planned tests speedy access to the latest world-class diagnostic technology.
The scanner is also improving patients’ experiences as it has a much wider area for patients to lie down which helps to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety.
It is also able to do more complex scans, meaning patients requiring prostate or heart scans, for example, will not have to travel out of the area.
The ultra-modern scanner is the same model that is in place at The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington and ensures clinicians have access to the highest quality of 3D images.
The Wansbeck scanner is used to scan almost any part of the body and diagnose neurological diseases, cancers, damage caused by sports or other injuries, as well as degenerative conditions such as arthritis.
It has been installed by InHealth, who work closely with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Founding Lindisfarne member and joint frontman Rod Clements said: “None of us are getting any younger but we never lose the zest to keep playing live. But as you get older health problems rear their head from time to time and the new facility at Wansbeck will help spot issues earlier.
“It’s a fantastic investment and something we are proud to be associated with. Hopefully it will help keep a few fellow rockers on the road for years to come."
Mr Lavery said: “I am privileged to officially open the new MRI scanner at Wansbeck hospital which is used for planned tests.
“To have the latest diagnostic technology available for patients in this area is fantastic news and, amid challenging times for the NHS, I’m very delighted to see the on-going investment in health services here in south east Northumberland.
“I am very impressed with the new scanner and refurbished unit and pleased to hear that every effort is being made to make patients’ experiences of having a scan – which can be daunting – as good as possible.”
Dr Margaret Wilkinson, consultant radiologist at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “We’ve had excellent feedback so far about our new scanner with patients really pleased with the larger size of the scanner and look and feel of the department.
“It’s great, also, that it’s capable of doing more complex scans.
“For us as clinicians to be able to diagnose patients quicker and start treatment sooner, it’s so important that we have the latest technology and it’s great news for patients that they can access the he very best diagnostic equipment in the world, let alone the NHS.”
Richard Bradford, chief executive at InHealth, said: “InHealth is committed to working with the NHS to widen access to diagnostic services and provide better outcomes for patients and to expedite the patient pathway.
“This investment provides us with a real opportunity to offer an expanded service to help Northumbria Healthcare to deliver the best possible care to patients.”
Judith Short is one patient who has benefitted from the new scanner at Wansbeck hospital.
Judith, from Ashington, had felt very claustrophobic when having a scan in the old scanner at Wansbeck and even went to North Tyneside General Hospital earlier this year to take advantage of the wider scanner there.
The 53-year-old said: “This scanner is so much better than the previous one. I do suffer from claustrophobia so it was difficult experience for me when I had one a few years ago.
“I didn’t want to repeat that so I chose to go to North Tyneside hospital which was good but obviously it’s much better for me to have the test close by.
“I must admit I was apprehensive about trying the scanner at Wansbeck but as soon as I saw it I knew I’d be OK.
“The room was so light and bright and it seemed so much bigger. The staff really put me at ease and when I went into the scanner it remained so light, airy and spacious and I could see through it which made me feel so much more comfortable.”