Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP today revealed that health boards have sent scans to external providers for analysis 400,000 times since 2015/16, with the number increasing year-on-year, as he warned that radiology was facing a "staffing drought" in Scotland.
The revelation comes in the week that the chair of the Royal College of Radiologists warned that the NHS was on "red alert" due to a shortage of qualified doctors.
Figures uncovered by the party through a series of freedom of information requests reveal that on 398,000 occasions scans have been sent to external providers for reporting over the last 3 years. The number has risen from 121,000 in 2015/16 to 144,000 in 2017/18.
In addition, Forth Valley and Ayrshire and Arran also reported having sent scans to external providers but couldn't specify how many.
Commenting on the figures Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
"NHS Boards are having to rely on private sector providers to interpret hundreds of thousands of scans that are essential to treating patients.
"The body for radiologists in the Scottish NHS has warned that the profession is on the brink of collapse. This requires far more than a few dozen training places over the next five years and some warm words from the new Health Secretary.
"It's a shame to see the Scottish NHS forced to line the pockets of private firms because the SNP's workforce planning has not been good enough.
"The challenges facing radiology are a microcosm of those facing the wider NHS. The department is critical to patients getting timely treatment and the smooth operation of other parts of the hospital.
"I am calling for the Health Minister to publish an annual report on workforce planning and lead an annual debate on it at Parliament. That would mean failings can be identified and rectified before it’s too late. If the SNP were watching this closely we’d not be at the stage where radiology is struggling to cope with a staffing drought."