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5.0 A framework to support preliminary clinical evaluation and clinical reporting by radiographers

The College believes it is timely to set out a supporting framework for the profession and for those responsible for delivering safe, high quality clinical imaging services. The framework provides guidance on the College’s expectations of members of the radiography profession whose scope of practice includes preliminary clinical evaluation or clinical reporting.

5.1 Education, training and continuing professional development

Initial education and training, and ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) are integral to radiographic practice. In areas of role development or advancing scope of practice, it is essential that these activities and the standards required are defined.

Preliminary clinical evaluation

In terms of developing the radiography profession relative to preliminary clinical evaluation, the College requires this to be a core competence for radiographers and be embedded in pre-registration undergraduate programmes. It is expected that newly qualified radiographers, following preceptorship, should be able to undertake preliminary clinical evaluation, including the written communication of these, for standard plain imaging and contrast agent examinations.27

Experienced radiographers should, similarly, be able to undertake preliminary clinical evaluation of standard plain imaging and contrast agent examinations, evidencing the development and enhancement of the necessary skills and competences in their CPD records. 

Of particular importance in developing and maintaining preliminary clinical evaluation skills is the web based e-Learning for Healthcare Interpretation of Radiological Images programme20 (developed in partnership with the College of Radiographers). This provides easy access to over 200 learning units and is available to all NHS employed staff free of charge. Its primary purpose is to facilitate knowledge and skills development to enable radiographers (and other healthcare professionals) to undertake clinical evaluation of imaging examinations. Clinical imaging service managers are encouraged to embed the use of this learning tool in radiographers’ personal development reviews and radiographers are encouraged to make use of the programme independently.

Clinical reporting

Radiographers engaged in clinical reporting must have acquired, without exception, a College of Radiographers approved postgraduate qualification(s) in the relevant field or fields of clinical reporting. The qualification(s) must include clinical reporting skills development and competence assessment. Approval of clinical reporting education and training programmes by the College of Radiographers ensures proper external scrutiny, gives national recognition to and transferability of the awards, and provides assurance that programmes’ outcomes meet professional body standards at advanced practice level.

Radiographers are expected to build on their postgraduate qualifications and continuing professional development to seek and maintain accreditation as an advanced practitioner by the College.27

5.2 Standards of practice

The performance standards to be achieved by radiographers undertaking preliminary clinical evaluation and clinical reporting are difficult to define in quantitative terms. Essentially, radiographers who have been trained must be demonstrably competent, with the appropriate knowledge base and a record of audit of their practice. They must also undertake regular continuing professional development related to their clinical role.

Both preliminary clinical evaluation and clinical reporting must be undertaken within a clear clinical governance framework to include structured departmental training, audit and performance review, personal development review and clinical supervision as a minimum.

Appendix 1 provides the College of Radiographers’ current standards; these will be reviewed periodically.

5.3 Limitations on practice

The College’s Scope of Practice28 makes it clear that the scope of practice for radiographers is ‘that which the radiographer is educated and competent to perform’. Limits, therefore, are set only by legislation, the extent of available education and development, and opportunity. 

In the context of preliminary clinical evaluation and clinical reporting, radiographers’ scope of practice is bounded by the extent of their knowledge, skills and competences. It is essential that radiographers understand and practice within their capabilities, seeking assistance from others whenever necessary.

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