Survey exposes national radiologist shortage

ALMOST 2,000 radiologist posts are currently unfilled across the UK with national vacancy rates averaging at 33 per cent, according to a new workforce report.

Statistics from the Royal College of Radiologists shows Wales is the worst affected with a workforce that is 37 per cent understaffed. This is followed by England on 35 per cent, Scotland on 31 per cent and Northern Ireland on 27 per cent.

Just under 1,700 full-time consultants would be needed in England, the College said, in order to keep up with safe staffing quotas and the demand for scans. Without more support and investment, it estimates the workforce will only increase over the next four years by 571 consultants.

In Wales, another 93 full-time consultants are needed but, without improvements, the College expects the workforce to fall by two consultants by 2024.

The Scottish consultant workforce is predicted to grow by 34 full-time posts in the next four years, but it actually needs 141. Northern Ireland will see an estimated increase of 12 consultants, although it actually needs another 52.

The RCR produced reports for each of the four home nations, building on data from its annual UK workforce report and including expert local opinion and solutions from national committees.

It found that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, services were struggling with radiologist shortages of between 27 and 37 per cent.

The RCR’s radiology workforce lead Professor Mark Callaway said workforce shortages were being felt again as services began to return to more normal work rates following the peak of the pandemic. He expressed concern over a backlog of waiting patients, reduced capacity due to COVID-19, and the looming winter pressures.

“The new RCR report… all reveal concerning gaps in interventional radiology provision and forecast meagre workforce expansion without concerted mitigation,” he said.

“As Westminster and devolved administrations look to economic recovery and future pandemic safeguards, we urge them to fund improvements in NHS imaging. Without a properly resourced radiologist workforce, patients will suffer due to patchy access to life-saving interventional expertise and we will see a return to escalating imaging waits.”