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Scotland radiologist shortage compromising patient care

Monday 20th February 2017
A significant number of new radiologists are needed in Scotland to cope with growing demand. Image: Spotmatik via iStock
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A widespread shortage of radiographers and radiologists in Scotland could be compromising patients' health and the level of care that they receive, according to a new report.

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has published new figures that show one in ten of all radiology vacancies were unfilled in the country in 2015, meaning existing radiologists were under extra pressure.

What's more, nine out of ten Scottish hospitals admitted that they were unable to cope with the daily demand of producing reports to accompany radiology images.

As a result, patients may be facing delays to receiving important diagnoses as hospitals cannot provide them with scan results in time, while radiologists are more likely to miss important potential signs of illness in images if they are feeling overstretched in their role.

In some cases, patients are having to wait for one month or more to receive results for cancer screenings, meaning they may be missing out on receiving the best treatment for their needs, which could affect their long-term prognosis.

Dr Grant Baxter, a consultant radiologist and chairman of the RCR's Scottish committee, stated: "A perfect storm of increased demand, no significant increase in consultant number or trainees, chronically unfilled posts and a tsunami of expected retirements in the next three years means that we need a sustainable solution now for the sake of our patients."

The situation is not likely to improve unless a significant number of new radiographers and radiologists are recruited. As Scotland's ageing population grows, more people will be at risk of illnesses such as cancer, meaning that more screening and MRI scans will need to be performed, creating even more work for radiologists.

Gregor McNie, senior policy and public affairs manager for Scotland at Cancer Research UK, added: "As the demand for imaging services continues to increase, it's vital there is a sufficient radiology and radiographer workforce - both now and in the future."

Written by Megan Smith

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