What an image!

I go back to the floor twice a month to find out what it’s like for our patients to be treated here, what it’s like for our staff to work here and to see if there is anything I can do to make it better place for both patients and staff. Our hospitals are enormous places and not all of our staff knows what happens in different departments so part of my blog is also aimed at making it a bit easier to understand for our staff, our governors, our volunteers and anyone else who reads it! I hope my blog gives you a tiny flavour of the fabulousness that I saw!


The Imaging Directorate provides diagnostic services across both the Preston and Chorley sites and has 10 main imaging modalities including; X-ray, Fluoroscopy, Interventional, CT, MRI, Ultrasound, Mammography, Nuclear Medicine, PET CT and bone densitometry. The Directorate workforce consists of 270 staff and they perform over 305,000 procedures per year – and rising!

I don’t know about you but I’ve always been a little confused about what everyone does so the team were very helpful and gave me a handy overview which I’ve managed to retain (I hope);


  • Radiographers – these are the people who actually do the technical stuff. They look after all sorts of areas in the hospital and also provide direct access to GPs patients. They also provide support in dedicated areas such as ED, chest clinic, main theatres, day case theatre and mobile radiography on the wards when patients are too poorly to attend the department.


  • Specialist radiographers work in areas such as intervention, cardiac catheter laboratory, co-ordinator for plain x-ray examinations, CT/MRI and Nuclear Medicine. One of our team Judi Argall is still working at 70 years of age as a Radiographer! From the age of 18 she has seen all technological developments in radiography from wet film developing, to daylight processing, to Computed radiography to Direct Digital radiography! And she looks fabulous!


  • Advanced practitioners work in fluoroscopy, such as barium swallows, venograms, myelograms and skeletal reporting. They do things previously performed by radiologists and focus on the area of speciality following Post graduate /masters level study.


  • Sonographers provide ultrasound support for obstetrics, breast, musculoskeletal, vascular and general work across both hospital sites as well as a community service for GP referrals.


  • Assistant Practitioners are trained to undertake basic radiography techniques under the indirect supervision of a radiographer


  • Chris Collins rocking out in Imaging assistants provide support for radiographers, advanced practitioners and consultants in all procedures carried out in the department with an emphasis on patient care, and ensuring smooth workflow in the department. Chris Collins who is one of our Imaging assistants performed as Freddie Mercury in a 10 second spot on Britain’s Got Talent! He was on the same show as Susan Boyle. I guess he’s glad he didn’t win because it could have changed his life and he could have found fame and fortune…..…


  • Radiologist Registrars - we have up to 7 Registrars for each placement from the Radiology training scheme who supplement the Consultant workforce.


  • Consultant Radiologists provide high quality expertise including Oncology, GI/GU, Thoracic, Breast, Intervention, MSK and Neuro sub specialities.


  • And of course lots of other people like Administration and Clerical staff, Clinical tutor for undergraduate and post graduate study, PACS manager, and departmental Clinical Managers.


The Directorate plays an integral part in the research we do here, and holds its own regular research meeting, aptly named the Imaging Directorate Evaluation and Approval of Studies (IDEAS) meeting.


This is one of the most expensive departments in our hospitals. It’s not really their fault it’s just that everything they need is a six-figure sum at least!  We have recently invested £600,000 and commissioned 3 state-of-the-art Digital X-ray rooms which replaced 5 old X-ray rooms making more efficient utilisation of space and an improved speedier patient experience.


An entirely new DEXA service has been commissioned which performs bone densitometry. I hope you saw the Team Brief Podcast in July where we filmed much of it from the new Dexa scanner room which, by the way, is the FIRST 3D DEXA Scanner in the WORLD! If you didn’t see it go onto the home page of the intranet and have a look. Remember it’s a first and you saw it here!


Funding from the Lancashire Evening Post Lifesaver appeal supported us to provide a new 128 slice CT scanner adjacent to the Emergency Department. I remember doing my bit to raise money for this by running my first 10K at the age of 50!  (62 minutes it took me to the delight of my children Ollie and Myles who beat me at 49 and 50 minutes!)  The scanner is staffed by Radiographers 24/7 which makes a huge difference to how quickly we can treat our patients. For those of you who haven’t seen the new scanner have a look at September’s Team Brief podcast because we filmed it there (and then send me a note from your mum explaining why you haven’t seen team brief yet!)

Karen Partington, Helga the dummy and other staff When I arrived in the department it was to meet Lisa and Helga. Lisa is the clinical tutor with responsibility for training medical students and radiographers of the future. Helga is a dummy with bones and costs 9K to buy – but what an investment! It’s a fabulous teaching aid because it can be positioned and x-rayed which really helps our students learn and develop. I heard fabulous feedback from our students who thought the education provision in the department was second to none.

One of our patients kindly allowed me to be present whilst one of our consultant radiologists Chad Ali undertook an ultrasound. Chad gave us all a lesson in anatomy and physiology and was very skilful and patient answering our questions as though he was hearing them for the first time!  There was a lovely atmosphere in the examination room, a lot of good humour and banter that encompassed everyone.  The room was dark (through necessity) and small (through being planned in the 60’s!)  But as everyone knows we have plans to improve the environment and buildings throughout both hospital sites so this will be another to add to the list.

My next job was to escort an elderly patient to have a barium meal.  So off we went to meet Valerie and Chris (he of BGT fame mentioned earlier).  They were like a double act and really helped our patient relax and have a laugh. I had to wear one of the x-ray aprons, they are immensely heavy but they don’t half help your posture! You’ve got to keep straight, shoulders back, head up or you fall over! They offered me a taste of barium and on the basis that my back to the floor shifts are to see what it’s like to be a patient I could hardly refuse (and anyway I was hungry so it didn’t seem like a bad offer) Barium smells like cream of soda but unfortunately tastes of chalk, and when I had finished my glass they then told me barium is not absorbed and goes through the body absorbing water so often leaves patients constipated. How we laughed…….not!  Chris also showed me the ankle straps used for myelograms ….patients hang upside down by these and he asked me if I wanted to have a go. Strangely enough I didn’t!

Chris Collins as Dolly Parton Chris has raised loads of money impersonating Dolly Parton and Tina Turner and has done some charity shows for our cancer charity Rosemere. I really love going back to the floor – you learn so much about the people who work here and often what lengths they go to in their normal lives to raise money or bring pleasure to the communities around us. 

This department has big plans for our cheque book ….…

  • £1.6m to replace the existing MRI scanners,

Further development of our Interventional Radiology service to support the expansion of vascular work for the network, which includes providing a 24/7 on-call service, 

  • £1.5m investment to purchase a Hybrid Interventional theatre suite which is planned for February 2015.
  •  7 day service to support the hospitals with CT scanning in the evenings and at weekends, a weekend ultrasound service and Radiologist support in the evenings and at weekends.
  • Recruitment of a 3rd interventional neuro-radiology consultant to deliver a 24/7 neuro-radiology rota.
  • Paperless  system for our hospitals and GPs.
  • Develping facilities for patients with an on-going improvement plan for waiting and changing areas.


I was in the department for a long time but didn’t get to see even a third of what goes on ….so I’m going back and will let you know how I get on! Huge thanks to everyone for your time and kindness in letting me a part of your team.



Karen Partington