Headlines: August 25th, 1997

Hammersmith Hospital is now totally free of X-ray film, just 101 years since Wilhelm von Rontgen made the first-ever X-ray of his wife’s hand. The film has been replaced by a £13m system for storing and transmitting body images.The new system known as a Picture Archiving Communications System (PACS), uses computer technology to store and transmit body images. X-rays and other diagnostic images can be distributed electronically throughout the hospital to wards, departments, clinics, and operating theatres.

Potentially, images can be transmitted to and from any external site with suitable transmission and reception facilities. This would allow specialists at Hammersmith Hospital to help with the diagnosis of patients in any part of the country or the world.

Health Minister Frank Dobson told patients and staff: “The medical and technological advances made in recent years are truly breath-taking. Clinicians now have at their disposal numerous sophisticated diagnostic tools, of the kind that would have been in the science fiction books a generation ago. This new system benefits both patients and staff. Patients get a quicker and more accurate diagnosis, with a reduced dose of radiation and a reduced need for repeat examinations.”

He added: “Staff can save a lot of time by having rapid access to all images on any patient, which can be shared with colleagues in other parts of the hospital – or possibly other parts of the country. This new system clearly has great importance for teaching and research, and it is fitting that it should be housed in one of our great teaching hospitals, and home of the Royal Postgraduate Medical School.”