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Executive summary and recommendations

A. Introduction

A.1

Attrition from pre-registration therapeutic radiography (radiotherapy) programmes has been high for many years when compared to other health professions and occurs mainly during the first year of study. During 2010/11, the last year for which figures are available, it was 36.5%.1 A survey of therapeutic radiography students undertaken by the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) in 2011 suggested that dissatisfaction with practice placements was the most frequently reported reason why students did not complete their programme.2 Together with wrong career choice, this reason was similarly reported in the 2012 survey. 3

A.2

The National Cancer Action Team (NCAT) invited bids for a project to evaluate the part played by practice placements in student attrition and to make recommendations for improving student retention.  They recognise that poor student retention is wasteful of resources and impeding the implementation of the National Radiotherapy Implementation Group’s (NRIG) plans for sustaining and developing the radiotherapy workforce. The most recent progress review highlights the need for a 39% increase in therapeutic radiography workforce by 2016.4 The SCoR employed an independent education professional to develop a bid and subsequently manage the project with the support of a Steering Group that included the NCAT Associate Director-Radiotherapy, and an external expert in practice learning from another health care profession. 

A.3

The full report describes in detail the project’s scope, methods, data analysis and findings, and is published separately from this executive summary. It demonstrates the reliability of the data collection methods and assures validity of the findings and recommendations.  Involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including students, was sought at each stage to promote ownership of the problem of attrition and offer solutions that, if implemented, can be expected to work.

A.4

The project findings confirm that attrition from therapeutic radiography pre-registration programmes is a multi-faceted issue and the recommendations proposed address both the systematic and the relational aspects of what is a complex organisational situation.  If the project objectives are to be met and attrition reduced, it is vital that these are viewed as a whole and implemented without delay.

A.5

The recommendations are the responsibility of all those who are involved with the planning, organisation and delivery of pre-registration education,  including the students. Education commissioners are crucial because they have the necessary authority to drive their implementation, through the contracts made with HEIs, for the provision of pre-registration programmes. Higher education institutions and their service partners must work together to implement them in programmes and placements and the professional body has an important role to play.

A.6

The recommendations have been formulated at strategic, operational and professional levels. Strategically, they are directed at the new provider-led education commissioners; the Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) and to Health Education England (HEE), to which LETBs are accountable.  Operational recommendations are to education providers and radiotherapy service managers. As the organisation concerned with the maintenance and development of professional standards at all levels of radiographic practice, there are also recommendations for the Society and College of Radiographers  to consider.

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