Building a Better Health Service

Your Health

Mobile X-ray service benefits patients and reduces ED visits

 An older woman sits on an armchair while a younger man interacts with a large mobile x-ray machine setup in front of her.

“The X-ray was done in the place where she felt happy and safe and we had the results back in a few hours,” explains Yvonne Morris, niece of Wicklow nursing home resident Rita Hesnan.

“My aunt is prone to chest infections and gets them quite a lot. Her GP recommended she have an X-ray but to bring her to an emergency department would be confusing for her. To help her GP with their diagnosis, this mobile X-ray service came to her room in the nursing home. It’s a great service and was a stress-free experience for my aunt, which was the most important factor.”

Rita is one of those now benefitting from a new community based mobile X-ray service that helps older patients avoid Emergency Departments. It improves quality of care and outcomes by bringing X-ray services directly to older people in the community.

Due to the success of the pilot project, the HSE is now expanding this free, national, community based service to older patients in nursing homes, community facilities and in patients’ homes.

The service is currently running in Dublin, Wicklow, Meath, Kildare, Louth, Cork, Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary. since August it has been offered in South Tipperary, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford. It will be available nationwide in 2024 with Galway and the North West next in line to benefit.

The service facilitates all types of X-ray examinations including chest, hip/pelvis, knee, wrist and shoulder. If an older patient has a fall, or requires a chest X-ray, the diagnostic team will arrive on-site. An X-ray examination will take place in their own room in the nursing home or in the patient’s own home and a report is shared with the referring doctor within four hours. Up to 83% of nursing homes in Dublin, Cork and Limerick have used the service to date. Referrals are assessed in conjunction with the nursing home and GP to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.

Supporting the rollout, Dr Eimear Ahern, HSE National Clinical Lead for Older Persons, described it as a “positive community intervention for older adults with complex needs and frailty, who now avoid an attendance and prolonged wait on a trolley in the ED when only an X-ray is required by the person’s GP to support the diagnosis."

"We have seen a reduction in the number of transfers to hospital for older adults who are now able to get an X-ray closer to home when needed after a fall. This responsive and safe pathway is a better experience for older adults and for the people looking after them and an example of how important and necessary health services can be delivered safely in people's communities and closer to home.”

To date, over 600 GPs have referred in to the service across more than 245 nursing homes, with results showing 4,452 hospital transfers avoided for patients up to the end of July 2023. In July, 366 patients were visited by the mobile service in nursing homes, community care facilities and private houses. Of these, 347 patients didn’t have to go to hospital for an X-ray, meaning 694 ambulance journeys to hospitals were avoided because the mobile X-ray service came to the patient.

Joe Ryan, National Director of the HSE Operational Performance and Integration division added that “this very successful pilot is delivering clear benefits to older patients. As we move from this innovative pilot project to rolling this out nationally, on a phased basis, we will build on this success in improving the patient’s experience.”

Patients do not need a medical card to avail of the service which is funded by the HSE to provide the service in public and private nursing homes.

Listen to staff talk about the mobile X-ray service at Tara Care Centre in Wicklow (YouTube)