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Information for patients
On visiting a diagnostic imaging department for a diagnostic procedure, or a radiotherapy department for radiotherapy treatment, you will come across a range of staff who are there to help you and to provide you with a high quality service.
There are two sorts of radiographer:
Diagnostic radiographers employ a range of techniques to produce high quality images to diagnose an injury or disease. They are responsible for providing safe and accurate imaging examinations and often also the resultant report.
The identification and monitoring of diseases, skeletal and soft tissue abnormalities and trauma are the major focus of diagnostic radiography.
Significantly, radiographers provide this service throughout the 24-hour day, often working alone or in interprofessional care teams.
They use a range of techniques including:
- X-rays – used to look through tissue to examine bones, cavities and foreign objects. May be used with contrast agents to provide a live motion image, eg, fluoroscopy to image the digestive system, or angiography to investigate blood vessels;
- CT (computed tomography) – provides cross-sectional views (slices) of the body;
- Nuclear medicine – uses radioactive tracers which can be administered to examine how the body and organs function, for example, the kidneys or heart. Certain radioisotopes can also be administered to treat particular cancers, eg, thyroid cancer.
Techniques that do not use x-radiation are:
- Ultrasound – uses high frequency sound. This technique is increasingly used in obstetrics, including monitoring throughout pregnancy, gynaecology, abdominal, paediatrics, cardiac, vascular and musculo-skeletal;
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – builds a 2-D or 3-D map of different tissues within the body.
Click here to view a short patient information video, produced and edited by Stephen Lomax, which shows the diagnostic imaging modalities.
Therapeutic radiographers play a vital role in the delivery of radiotherapy services. They are the only health professionals qualified to plan and deliver radiotherapy. They constitute over 50% of the radiotherapy workforce working with clinical oncologists, medial physicists and engineers.
Therapeutic radiographers are responsible for the planning and delivery of accurate radiotherapy treatments using a wide range of technical equipment. The accuracy of these are critical to treat the tumour and destroy the diseased tissue, while minimising the amount of exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. Their degree qualified training solely in oncology and the care of cancer patients makes them uniquely qualified to undertake this role. The newer treatment techniques such as Intensity Modulated radiotherapy, Image Guided radiotherapy and adaptive radiotherapy require decision making at the point of treatment delivery at each treatment to ensure the optimum personalised treatment plan is delivered accurately at every treatment.
Therapeutic radiographers are extensively involved at all stages of the patients' radiotherapy journey:
- Pre-diagnosis – giving health promotion advice and raising awareness of cancer.
- Patient consent – working with patients to enable them to make informed decisions about their treatment options.
- Pre-treatment preparation and planning – the use of sophisticated equipment to scan patients and plan treatments. As well as the preparation of any required devices to ensure the accurate delivery of treatment.
- Treatment delivery – the use of a range of radiotherapy equipment to deliver external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy treatments).
- Patient management during treatment – the regular assessment of patients whilst undergoing treatment. Many radiographers qualify to prescribe drugs for patients to counteract the side effects of treatment. They are also responsible for the psychosocial well being of their patients whilst they are attending for treatments.
- Patient follow up, management and care after treatment has finished.
As Allied Healthcare Professionals, therapeutic radiographers undertake clinical practice at all levels;
- Consultant practitioner
- Radiotherapy service manager
A growing number of radiographers undertake tumour site specific roles or specialist treatment roles (at both advanced and consultant level practice), where they are responsible for their own patient load from treatment referral, through treatment to post treatment follow up. They are part of the multi-disciplinary approach to patient management by attending and participating in MDT meetings. These post holders provide continuity of care for their patients across their cancer journey with improved levels of care for their patients as well as efficiency benefits for the service.
Therapeutic radiographers are also involved in clinical research at all levels; ranging from recruitment to trials through to radiographer led research studies to evaluate the newer technologies and techniques as part of providing evidence based practice.
They can also specialise as community liaison practitioners. These post holders provide continuity of care between all health care providers. They also support and educate staff in the primary care services to understand and manage the side effects experienced by radiotherapy patients after they have finished their course of treatment.
Radiotherapy Service Managers are professional qualified managers responsible for the strategic delivery and planning of the service along with the day to day operational management of radiotherapy services. Their professional training and expertise is critical to the provision of safe and efficient radiotherapy services.
Patient information available to patients
Patient information leaflets may be available from the hospital you are going to for your diagnostic procedure
All cancer centres provide their patients with information about their radiotherapy before and as they start treatment, so do find out what they can provide before you start your treatment. Many cancer centres have their own cancer information and support centres which are staffed by specially trained health care professionals and volunteers to provide information and support about all aspects of cancer, the treatment options, side effects of treatment and other services available. Many of these centres produce their own information resources about local treatment treatments and services.
There are many reputable national charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK which also provide a range of patient information resources about these topics, visit their websites to find out more.
This website also provides an overview of radiotherapy. This gives more details about the role of radiotherapy and links to other organisations’ websites which provide information about radiotherapy.
Access to your health records
This NIGB guidance 'Access to Health Records by Diagnostic Staff' can be downloaded below. This provides details for patients and healthcare professionals about access to health records by diagnostic clinicians and their support staff when they do not have a direct relationship with the patient and are not in a position to ask for consent to view the record themselves.
Concerns or making a complaint
If you have concerns or wish to make a complaint about the quality of care you receive from the NHS, or would like to provide feedback about any other issues or experiences whilst using the NHS you should contact PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service).
Visit your local hospital website for details of your local PALS service. All NHS Trusts must provide this service.
The Francis Report
The Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) has implemented a number of actions and published a response to the final report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC.
The SCoR response includes revising the profession’s Code of Professional Conduct, building on and enhancing the library of e-learning resources, and upgrading the online CPD portfolio tool.
Click to download a presentation which has been used by a number SCoR staff and Council members at recent events to remind members about the importance of putting the patient at the centre of everything they do.