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Radiologist shortage may delay cancer diagnoses

Tuesday 17th October 2017
The UK is in desperate need of more radiologists and radiographers, a new report has revealed. Image: sudok1 via iStock
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The UK is currently experiencing a severe shortage of radiologists, which could lead to delays in vital cancer diagnoses, according to a new report.

Statistics from the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) show that more radiologists and radiographers with transferable skills are desperately needed across the NHS to ensure that patients are receiving timely diagnoses and can begin accessing the best possible treatment for their needs as soon as possible.

The RCR found that one in ten radiology posts in Britain have remained unfilled for the past six years, meaning many hospitals are operating under capacity.

Radiologists are in higher demand than ever before, with the number of CT and MRI scans carried out in the UK growing by ten per cent annually each year between 2013 and 2016.

However, at the same time, the number of consultant radiologists working for the NHS has only increased by three per cent since 2010.

As a result, this has led to a significant shortage of radiologists, meaning patients are not always able to receive diagnoses and subsequent treatment in the quickest and most appropriate manner.

Figures show that there are on average just 7.5 radiologists for every 100,000 people in the UK, which is the third-lowest level of 31 countries in Europe. What's more, one in four NHS radiologists are from outside Britain, indicating that there's a lack of interest in the profession among young people in the UK.

This could be due to a lack of funding for radiologists, though, which the government is being urged to increase to prevent the shortage - and the potential health risks associated with it - from worsening.

Dr Nicola Strickland, president of the RCR, said: "The government is content to waste millions of pounds of NHS funds paying for scans and X-rays to be reported out of hours, as well as paying for expensive locum consultants just to keep hospital imaging departments afloat.

"Without more radiologists, more patients will miss out on vital new interventional procedures, and they will wait even longer for diagnoses of cancer and serious diseases."

Written by Megan Smith

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