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Hospital defends ram scans

A HOSPITAL that hired out scanning equipment for use on sheep denied yesterday that farm animals were jumping the queue for National Health Service treatment.

The Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham confirmed that its mobile computed tomography (CT) scanner, used to test for cancer and blood disorders, was leased earlier this month to the Meat and Livestock Commission to screen 20 rams for breeding potential.

The machine is normally used only four days a week by NHS hospitals, since most now have their own scanners.

The commission hired the machine as part of a research project being carried out jointly with the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh. Scientists believe information gleaned on fat and muscle content may be more reliable than a simple visual check.

Robert Naylor, chief executive of the Heartlands Hospital, serving east Birmingham, said the scanner was eight years old, and that most hospitals now had more up-to-date models. 'We see no reason why the scanner should not be used again by animals provided it doesn't jeopardise patient care . . . We charge around pounds 1,000 a day. It is generating income for the NHS.'