Radiologist shortage acute

THE radiologist workforce in the NHS is now 33 per cent short-staffed and needs at least another 1,939 consultants to meet safe staffing levels and pre-coronavirus levels of demand for scans, says the Royal College of Radiologists.

The latest UK radiologist census by the RCR also found that 58 per cent of radiology leaders say they do not have enough diagnostic and interventional radiologists to keep patients safe. Half of trusts and health boards (47 per cent) do not have the staff or transfer arrangements needed to run safe 24/7 interventional radiology services, meaning patients are potentially missing out on life-saving procedures.

The RCR warns that without more consultants in training, investment in new models of care and better staff retention and recruitment, the UK’s radiologist shortfall will hit 44 per cent by 2025 (3,613 consultants short of real-terms demand).

The RCR also cites a recent poll gauging morale among radiologist, which found that half intend to cut their hours, and three times as many consultants than normal plan to leave the NHS in the next year.

Consultant numbers are increasing in England (146 more full-time imaging experts) than in 2019 but not fast enough to keep up with patient demand. Radiologist numbers in other home nations have barely risen. The RCR says that closing the forecast gap between consultant supply and demand would require the number of new radiologists in training across the UK to treble, from 300 to 900 training places per year.

The RCR’s radiology workforce lead Professor Mark Callaway said: "The coronavirus pandemic has bluntly contrasted the every-day heroism of NHS teams with the chronic under-funding of services, and the cracks in radiology, as elsewhere, are becoming undeniable.

"Our new report has found the NHS needs thousands more radiologists to ensure patients get the safe and effective treatment they deserve, amplified by the first-hand experience of frontline doctors who witness the impact of consultant shortages on patient care on a daily basis.

“Unless hospital imaging capacity is massively improved, the UK will continue to lag behind other countries on cancer survival rates and patients will face worse outcomes for trauma care and all kinds of conditions. The need for investment is urgent."