Radiographers urgently needed in UK

Monday 14th September 2015
The low amount of radiographers and radiologists in the UK is reaching concerning levels, experts have warned. Image Credit: sudok1
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The UK desperately needs more radiographers, according to a set of new reports released by charity Cancer Research UK.

Early diagnosis, which is a key part of a radiographer's role, makes a significant difference in cancer survival rates but these services could be in jeopardy if the government doesn't provide more investment.

One of the reports commissioned by the charity and produced by agency 2020 Delivery says an under-resourced workforce and a lack of modern equipment are major concerns facing diagnostic services.

This problem is only expected to get worse, the document states, with an ageing population having a significant impact on the demand on diagnostic services and cancer treatment.

Having qualified professionals to operate and understand imaging tests is crucial but there are looming gaps. In both England and the wider UK, there is a concerning lack of specialists such as radiographers, radiologists and sonographers

All of these professionals are crucial for running cancer services, and reaching the government's aim of having 85 per cent of people receiving specialist treatment within 62 days of their diagnosis.

According to the Royal College of Radiologists, the UK is seriously lagging behind other European countries in this area. Germany, Spain and France have, 92, 112 and 130 radiologists per million people respectively, while the UK has just 48.

However, replacing equipment alone is expected to cost around £215 million, with more needed to meet the growing demand for these services.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director for early diagnosis, said new GP referral guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – aimed at lowering the threshold at which patients can be referred for tests for suspected cancer – would drive higher demand in the future.

“The state of NHS diagnostic services is deeply concerning,” she said. “There aren’t enough trained staff, they’re often reliant on outdated equipment and in many cases they’re already operating services seven days a week."

Written by Megan Smith

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