Radiation regulations

Introduction to Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the main public body which regulates work that causes or could cause radiation exposure of workers, the public or both and enforces the main legal requirements of the Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 (IRR17). Read the 2017 IRR regulations

Further information can be found on the HSE Website

Introduction to Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2017

The safety of the patient and use of ionising radiation for medical exposures has been subject to specific legislation since 1988. Care Quality Commission (CQC) and its predecessor organisations have been responsible for enforcing it in England across both the NHS and independent sectors since November 2006.

The Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2017, known as IRMER, can be found at the Office for Public Sector Information’s website.

The regulations are intended to:

  • Protect patients from unintended, excessive or incorrect medical exposures.
  • Ensure the benefits outweigh the risk in every case.
  • Make certain patients receive no more than the required exposure for the desired benefit, within technological limits.

The regulations also apply to exposures as part of established health screening programmes, medical or biomedical, diagnostic or therapeutic research and those undertaken for medico-legal purposes.

Overall CQC estimate that more than 40 million medical exposures are carried out each year in England.

Further information can be found on the CQC Website

CQC IR(ME)R annual report

A total of 1,319 notifications of exposures ‘much greater than intended’ were received by the Care Quality Commission, which represents a 3.3% increase from 2015.

The findings are published in the CQCs IR(ME)R annual report 2016.

The report reveals that of the 1,319 notifications:

  • 1,069 (81%) were from diagnostic radiology departments. As in 2015, the most common error reported was when the ‘wrong patient’ was referred for imaging or was improperly identified by staff working within the imaging department.
  • 61 notifications were from nuclear medicine departments, which is an increase of 17% from the 52 reported in 2015. In 2016, as with the previous year, there were only two notifications of therapeutic nuclear medicine errors.
  • 189 notifications were from radiotherapy departments. Of these cases, 118 were categorised as ‘radiotherapy imaging’. This left 71 notifications related to treatment errors, which was broadly in line with previous years.

Download the full report.

The report states:

“We attribute the increase in overall notifications in 2016 to the estimated increase in annual activity.

“We have no reason to believe that practice is poor, but rather we feel that governance and incident reporting cultures are improving.

“However, we continue to be concerned that patient identification errors are still the highest category of notification, which suggests little learning year on year in addressing this issue.

“Despite the pause and check procedure being in place since 2015, we still feel that errors are occurring because of a lack of adherence to this patient safety measure.

“We also have concerns around a lack of understanding of IR(ME)R, especially relating to authorisation, justification, clinical audit, training requirements for all duty holders, and diagnostic reference levels.”

Maria Murray, Professional Officer for Radiation Protection at the Society, said:

“I recommend this report to all staff working with ionising radiations to support local learning, IRMER procedures review and staff CPD.

“This annual report should be read by all radiographic staff to support continued compliance with IRMER.”