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Opportunities

As more consultant radiographer developments have taken place, it has become apparent that opportunities for such developments may lie outside the traditional clinical imaging and radiotherapy departments. A number of consultant radiographers now feature as key team members in other services, for example, accident and emergency services and neurosciences. As such, they are considered to be vital assets to effective multi-disciplinary teams, working across professional and organisational boundaries, collaborating to achieve ever better clinical outcomes, patient experiences and effective use of resources and delivering innovative models of patient care.

The 2007 publication ‘Team working within Clinical Imaging’(10), recognised that many roles, previously undertaken by consultant radiologists, are now competently undertaken by appropriately skilled radiographers. Examples of this include ultrasound examinations, gastro-intestinal studies and image interpretation and reporting. Such developments have led to reduced waiting times and increased patient satisfaction without lowering standards. The profession needs to build upon this work and clearly evidence that creating consultant radiographer posts and appointing consultant radiographers is complementary to, and supportive of, medical practice and especially the medical practice of radiologists.

Similarly, across radiotherapy services, there has been national acknowledgement in documents such as the Cancer Reform Strategy for England9, that the radiography career progression model, including the highest level of practice at consultant level, should be introduced across radiotherapy centres to meet local service need. Radiotherapy capacity across the UK must increase very significantly and quickly and there will be new stand-alone and satellite centres(11). Radiographers’ skills will need to be utilised more widely and practice at advanced and consultant levels will be essential to deliver services in line with national targets and tariffs effectively and efficiently(12).

It can be challenging to cost a service improvement in true value for money terms, and although the cost of employing a consultant radiographer is likely to significantly below that of a radiologist, direct comparisons are unhelpful as the duties of both will be different and one does not replace the other. However, the NHS places a high value on quality of service and this is the area where the consultant radiographer can demonstrate the effectiveness of the post. Examples of this are numerous. In diagnostic radiography, a research project is evaluating the impact of immediate radiographer reporting on patient outcomes. In therapy radiography, a consultant radiographer is enhancing the patient experience by working across the whole gynaecology patient pathway from the initial to final visit enabling the patient to have a constant and familiar professional who is aware of their history and can prescribe and advise on all aspects of their disease treatment at a time when patients are frightened and vulnerable.

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