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RCR sounds alarm on worsening UK radiologist shortage

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | June 15, 2023
European News
The shortfall of radiologists is projected to reach 40% in 2027 if no action is taken.
For every four weeks that treatment is delayed due to NHS staffing shortages, a cancer patient's risk of death in the U.K. increases by 10%. In radiology, these shortages are affecting 97% of centers in Britain, with the profession facing a shortfall of 29% in clinical radiologists, according to the Royal College of Radiology.

In its 2022 clinical radiology workforce report, which was based on insights from all 60 of the country's cancer center directors, the RCR says that greater investments in training and fostering better work environments are essential to curbing this shortfall, which is projected to reach 40% (a deficit of 3,365) in five years, raising already heightened concerns about patient safety, quality of care, and burnout.

In 2022, the workforce saw a 3% increase, compared to a 5% annual rise in demand for diagnostic imaging services.

“More trainees need to be brought into the system to support demand, the capacity to train these doctors must be established, and proactive and immediate work is needed to prevent an exodus of burnout and exhausted staff,” wrote RCR in its report.

Training investments should focus on areas where shortages and long-standing vacancies are most severe, and can be achieved through partnering with universities and post-graduate programs.

RCR also recommends fostering supportive work environments to retain current consultants, who are leaving the profession in higher numbers, and can be achieved by adapting job plans for those nearing retirement, and funding IT and pastoral measures. Additionally, installing updated IT and radiology equipment and infrastructure can help by eliminating operational bottlenecks and laborious tasks, as well as reduce geographic disparities in quality imaging access.

Investing in these measures not only enables providers to bolster their radiologist numbers, but save money that they are currently spending on expensive alternatives to keep up with demand, including outsourcing, insourcing, imaging networks, and ad hoc locums, according to RCR.

“We are seeing increasing trends that the workforce is simply not able to manage the increase in demand for services. Ninety-nine percent of departments were unable to manage their reporting demand without incurring additional costs,” wrote the authors.

RCR encourages providers to work with it to build up cases for acquiring funding for these actions from trusts, health boards and regional and national governments.

RCR was unable to respond to HCB News in time for the publication of this story.

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