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New Directions: going forward

Radiography is a core service primarily based, at present, in the acute sector with radiographers making significant contributions to the patient/client care pathway. The NHS Next Stage Review (2008) has emphasised the significant role that primary care will play in delivering coherent health and social care in England. Similar policy developments are also taking place in the other three home countries, tailored to the particular needs of patients within Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In all four countries of the UK, changes are continuing apace within the wider health and social care arena and are impacting upon radiography. The public and patients expect that radiographers will be adequately prepared to deal with these changing situations based on the latest evidence. To meet the current challenges, radiographers must embrace the potential offered for developing their clinical roles and where necessary change practice to align with local service needs that support patient -focused care.

The Society and College of Radiographers believes that this document, ‘Education and Professional Development: New Directions’ provides the coherent strategic direction and practical support needed to effect the necessary change. In particular, it believes that the profession must:

Use the support workforce and develop practitioners. The radiography support workforce will necessarily become more integrated into the team and, similarly, practitioners will be contributing to service delivery whilst developing their scope of practice and expertise.

Promote and value equally advanced practitioner level, generalist and specialist role radiographers. Valuable, flexible and expert services are provided by generalist advance practice radiographers, offering breadth of practice coupled with high skill levels, depth of knowledge and wide experience. They work across and with the range of clinical teams essential to service delivery overall, particularly with regard to delivering extended day/week and 24/7 services. Specialist practice advanced practitioner roles complement generalist advanced practitioners, meeting specialist care needs and ensuring seamless care delivery.

Demand and develop consultant roles. These are pivotal to delivering the challenges set by access and choice initiatives, reconfiguring how care is delivered, re-locating much of this into the community and primary care sectors and achieving the transformation required to secure high quality, evidenced based, cost effective and efficient services in line with the QIPP agenda in England and similar initiatives in the devolved countries.

Adopt cultural change. All radiographers, associated professionals and the support workforce must have access to clinical supervision, professional advice and CPD in an environment that nurtures and promotes their individual learning. Additionally, all individuals regardless of their role or position must continue to develop their knowledge and skills based on the evidence required to provide high quality care.

Exercise increased degrees of freedom and professional self-regulation. Patients have benefited, and will continue to benefit, from radiographers and support staff that have developed enhanced roles that impact positively on patient/client care. It is important that radiographers are clear about their professional responsibility and accountability and, in exercising greater freedom in their roles, do so in line with the profession’s ethical code and the standards set by the HPC.  Support staff must ensure they act only within their defined roles and the profession’s scopes of practice for these roles.

Promote effective leadership and management. Heads of Service must be professionally qualified and registered radiographers. They are best equipped to take the lead in reviewing services and implementing new roles to meet changing services needs. They shape policy and operate strategically to streamline service delivery aligned to care pathways and to make the most effective and efficient use of the skills and potential of the whole workforce.

Provide solutions. Over the past two decades, the Scope of Practice of radiographers has advanced considerably to a point where radiographers are employed in a sizeable number and range of strategic management and leadership roles and consultant clinical practice. The versatility of the workforce in adopting new technologies, adapting practice and advancing their sphere of responsibility is proven. Overall, the profession has demonstrated its ability to provide effective solutions to shortfalls in the provision of services. More major change in health care services is anticipated and the profession must remain ready to seize further opportunities to improve health care for patients and the public.

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