Medical exposure to ionising radiation to be regulated by HIQA

Date of publication:
What is ionising radiation?

HIQA is now responsible for the regulation of medical exposure to ionising radiation. This follows the signing by the Minister for Health of a new Statutory Instrument governing the regulation of medical exposures to ionising radiation.

A medical exposure to ionising radiation is when a patient receives ionising radiation as part of their diagnosis or treatment. This could be 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.”

As part of the regulation process, HIQA will also examine the way in which patients are exposed to ionising radiation. Factors that will be considered include 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. HIQA will also receive mandatory 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.”

ENDS

For further information contact:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, HIQA, 01 814 7480 / 086 2447 623, mwhelan@hiqa.ie


Notes to the editor:

  • The new regulations transpose into Irish law the EU Council Basic Safety Standards (BSS) Directive of 2013.
  • Under the regulations, HIQA is the competent authority for patient protection in relation to medical exposure to ionising radiation in Ireland.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues, under the ionising radiation regulations, to be the competent authority for the protection of workers and members of the public. HIQA and the EPA will work together to carry out their separate but parallel functions under the relevant legislation.
  • Guidance on the regulation of medical exposure to ionising radiation is available below.