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Calls for radiographers to refuse to conduct age tests on migrants

17 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Photo Roman Zaiets.

Radiographers could refuse to conduct X-rays and MRI scans of migrants’ teeth and bones to verify their age if calls to oppose the laws succeed.

Delegates at the Society of Radiographers’ conference will be urged to reject requests to carry out the tests amid warnings the measures are a waste of NHS resources and could push up waiting times for patients.

If health professionals back the proposal, the move could thwart Home Office efforts to use the procedures to root out migrants suspected of lying about their age after crossing the Channel to the UK in the wake of former home secretary Dame Priti Patel declaring the tests would stop grown men “masquerading as children” on their asylum applications.

The union is set to call on radiographers attending its annual summit – taking place this week in Leeds – to oppose the laws which came into force earlier this year, arguing staff are not contractually obliged to operate the machines for such checks which they branded unreliable and unethical.


Richard Evans, the society’s chief executive, said: “When hundreds of thousands of people are waiting unacceptably long times for MRI scans, it’s completely unjustifiable to take up machine time to work out the age of migrants.

“Conducting these scans falls outside the terms of the contract of a clinical radiographer. This means that any radiographer conducting the scans would have to agree to it voluntarily and be paid separately.

“No radiographer should feel coerced to conduct these scans during clinical time.”

Branding the law “nothing but a headline-grabbing measure” and arguing there was “every moral reason to object – and serious legal, ethical and health reasons to object, too”, Mr Evans said the changes risk compromising the “care being given to other NHS patients” as well as the safety of migrants being scanned.

At risk

It comes after scientific advisers previously warned the Government that X-rays could put child asylum seekers at risk of harm from radiation.

The society – which represents more than 33,000 staff working in medical imaging and radiotherapy mostly for the NHS – will argue the risk of carrying out the scans is far greater than the risk of an adult migrant being wrongly treated as a child.

An X-ray of a child’s wrist is “unlikely to be accurate” after they have reached puberty, while dental checks to determine whether a migrants wisdom teeth have emerged yet are not a failsafe measure, Mr Evans said.

Although wisdom teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25, “some people get their wisdom teeth much later than others. But some people’s wisdom teeth never emerge at all”, he added.

It is “vital” any X-rays are “fully justified” and agreed to, as patients must give consent to such tests under UK law, the society said.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

It takes the highlighting of a grave matter such as this to awaken people to the fact that the Home Office is in the hands of morally debased and mentally unhinged rogues. We fear that an incoming Labour government will not change much but this is a piece of legislation which must be shredded on day one. To those who think it’s only for migrants (and that is not acceptable either) then think on.

1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

The first time I remember this being publicly suggested was during the Syrian migrant crisis. It was the idea of the MP for Monmouth, now Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies.
There was an outcry then, now performative cruelty is the order of the day.
I hope the professionals take a firm stand, not sure an incoming government would prioritise changing the legislation.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
29 days ago
Reply to  Elaine

You quoted a name there and it doesn’t surprise me whatsoever. The question people need to ask themselves, with the leaving of the ECHR in mind, is ‘Are YOU safe from this?’. If we are outside of a charter which guarantees our basic human rights, there will be no recourse to any rights we had previously. Anyone could be picked up off the street and have to undergo an X ray without their consent and for any reason they choose so the answer to the question ‘Are YOU safe from this?’ Is NO.

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