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Ionising radiation

Ionising radiation such as from x-rays or radiopharmaceuticals is used widely in medicine.

It is an indispensable tool for imaging as an aid to diagnosis or in facilitating surgical, cardiac or other interventional techniques as well as in the treatment of many types of cancer and other conditions.

Regulations and guidance

The safety of the patient and use of ionising radiation for medical exposures has been subject to specific legislation since 1988. 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 2000 and amendments made in 2006, known as IRMER, can be found at the Office for Public Sector Information’s website.

The Department of Health (DH) has published guidance on IRMER, together with notes on good practice on its website.

Read the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations Guidance and notes.

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

How we monitor use

We enforce IRMER by a variety of mechanisms including developing programmes of assessment and inspection of organisations using medical exposures.

Under regulation 4(5), we are also obliged to receive notifications of exposures ‘much greater than intended’ (MGTI), which we investigate in every case.

We feed back to healthcare professionals and the wider public on the results of our work by publishing reports and working with the DH, professional bodies and other stakeholders and enforcement organisaitons.

The IRMER desk can be contacted by direct line on 020 7448 9039 or via email at