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Introduction

Research should be at the heart of healthcare practice, underpinning all aspects of patient care. The Department of Health (DoH) in England has research and innovation as one of its key priorities for 2016-20171 and a number of national policy documents reinforce the importance of research for ensuring efficient, safe and innovative service delivery.2-4  The Darzi report (High Quality Care for All)stresses the importance of clinical and non-clinical evidence-based practice for providing a National Health Service (NHS) with quality of care at its heart. 

In order for radiography practice to move forward, radiographers need to lead and participate in research and implement the findings of such research to enable improvements in health care delivery, patient care, technological innovations, education, and development of the workforce. This need is made explicit in the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Standards of Proficiency for Radiographers, which state that radiographers must be able to engage in evidence-based practice.6

A newly revised research strategy from the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) from 2016 to 2021 sets a clear vision to improve patient care and outcomes by continuing to develop, grow and implement a high quality evidence base.In order to meet the aims and vision of the SCoR research strategy, it is important to identify what the key research areas will be for radiography research in the UK over the next five years. These research priority areas will enable the profession to focus research activity on topics that are deemed to be critical for current and future radiography practice; and enable appropriate channelling of funding resources.

Other Allied Health Professions (AHPs) have identified national research priorities through a Delphi consensus method, 8-14and the rationale for choosing a Delphi method is highlighted by the following:

  • the problem lends itself to subjective judgments made on a collective basis
  • defining research priorities for a whole profession requires input from specialisms within radiography (both diagnostic and therapeutic)
  • finding time for frequent meetings can be difficult
  • group communication is more efficient than individual meetings.

It is important to note that simply identifying potential priority areas may not be sufficient to ensure research efforts actually focus in these areas. Marshall emphasises that in critical care nursing, the research priorities identified for the US in the early 1980s and 1990s were not followed by subsequent published research in those priority areas15. However, this mismatch between identified priorities and subsequent published research is most likely a result of a lack of funding emphasis on the priority areas that were defined. To address this, the SCoR Research Strategy states that departments will be encouraged to use the identified national research priorities to inform local research strategies, and that College of Radiographers Industry Partnership Scheme (CoRIPS) funding must match at least one of the research priorities (SCoR 2015).

The aim of this project was to use a modified Delphi consensus method to establish key research priority areas for the radiography profession. This report describes the methods of that process and presents the research priorities identified through the consensus process.

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