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SCoR CEO responds to RCR statement on radiologist shortage in Scotland

16 February, 2017

Author: Richard Evans, Chief Executive Officer

Scottish radiographers

Once again, we find ourselves having to spend valuable time and energy correcting misinformation from the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), when we should be standing shoulder to shoulder to ensure patients receive the very best diagnostic imaging services.

The scandal of radiologist under-provision in Scotland, which the SoR recognises and unreservedly condemns, is highlighted in the recent position statement from the RCR

The evidence shows that the radiologist shortage in Scotland, as with elsewhere in the UK, is adversely affecting diagnostic imaging report times.

This directly compromises effective and timely treatment for patients with consequences that will be felt across healthcare and the entire economy.

Of course we need more radiologists. It is a professional duty for radiographers to join radiologist colleagues to highlight the risks and campaign for change.

The tragedy of the latest statement is that out of 1158 words, 404 are spent not in making the case for better patient services but instead in denigrating and undervaluing the capabilities of advanced practitioner radiographers.

The volume of research evidence that demonstrates that properly trained reporting radiographers deliver, within their scope of expertise, reports of equivalent quality to those of consultant radiologists is totally ignored.

In fact, the RCR statement attempts to convince readers that radiographer reports are inherently sub-standard and lacking in clinical utility. Also ignored is the evidence of experience.

The strong culture of team-working that exists in a very large number of radiology departments in the UK has led to collaboration between our professions in delivering reports. In England 21% of all reporting is undertaken by radiographers and sonographers.  

Radiologists support their advanced practitioner radiographer colleagues in this remarkable achievement and better services result.

Why waste time attempting to undermine the team working and collaboration between our professions that so clearly underpins imaging services all across the UK? When a measure that is shown and known to improve reporting turnaround times is available, why not take it?

The reason provided in the statement is that there is a 13% vacancy rate for radiographers across the UK.

Radiographers shouldn’t be trained to report images because there aren’t enough of them to sustain services. On the surface of it, this is not a bad sounding argument.

Naturally, the SoR agrees that there is a shortage of radiographers and we welcome any support to raise the issue.

It is important to understand that flexibility in the radiography workforce, and the ability to combine advanced practice development with the introduction of assistant radiography practitioners, mean that as a profession we do not necessarily accept the premise that a shortage must lead to a shut-down in professional development.

In any case, the RCR statement is about the situation in Scotland, where the radiographer vacancy rate is 4%.

Neither profession is helped if we have to misrepresent the facts to make our point.

The RCR statement was released on 9 February. On the same day a meeting was convened in Scotland involving representatives of the Scottish Government Health staff, the RCR and SCoR.

The meeting made progress in agreeing work to standardise and maximise the role of the Reporting Radiographer across Scotland.

This work deserves to succeed because we know that better patient services will result.

Would I go as far as to suggest that the RCR is deliberately attempting to obstruct the initiative?

It is genuinely heartbreaking to have to say that I would.

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