Calming the perfect storm with practice educators

Published: 05 December 2017 Ezine

Author: Jeremy Weldon, Northwick Park Hospital

A perfect storm of a significant increase in demand for imaging, changes to shift type working, a shortfall and attrition of student radiographer training, early retirement and cost of living, have
created particularly acute workforce challenges in north west London. Others will recognise similar challenges that see every day working reliant on temporary and agency staff.

The wider issues facing the NHS, such as reduced spending and increased life expectancy, are likely to have exacerbated this further. Add in some of the new and emerging strategies of reduced time to diagnosis, seven day working and changes to education funding, the picture is, at best, uncertain.

Others will recognise the above effect as, “I’m really keen to progress my career but there don’t seem to be any opportunities where I work.”

Or “I’ve trained in reporting but there is nobody to backfill my old role.”

Or “St Elsewhere trust has so many more training opportunities, but we don’t have enough staff to run a normal service.”

Or “We want to extend our scanner operating times to help meet demand but we don’t have enough staff.”

Other significant reasons for investing in these roles is to promote national health strategies that rely on imaging. These include cancer diagnosis, management of stroke, major trauma networks, turnaround times, and patient experiences in imaging. One of the aims of North West London practice educators project is to invest in the NHS’ greatest asset: its workforce.

The practice educator role
The main project aim is to create a group of innovative roles to work together to tackle some of the challenges. The model for this role is based on the student practice educator. Familiar to many as a role facilitating undergraduate training, this person is to be responsible for qualified radiographer training and development.

These are experienced radiographers seconded from their own employer who are tasked with developing the qualified radiographer workforce. Working closely with their trust management team, the university and the rest of the group, their role is to educate, develop, inspire, facilitate, innovate and project manage.

The practice educator group is representative of the experienced and diverse skills required in delivery of high quality imaging and they share this expertise across the region. Their main tasks are to teach and facilitate in clinical practice and at university.

Career framework
In late 2016, the North West London Career Framework was launched. Our work is to develop some of the principles and goals of the framework and to ensure that aspirations are realised.

While training and development of qualified radiographers is the primary goal, investing of other areas of the workforce are going to be important. Whilst still in the early stages of development,  apprenticeships will be key to the future of the radiology workforce and investing in these new roles will be an important part of the work.

The project has been developed by a north west London collaboration of clinical commissioning groups and is part funded by Health Education North West London and the University of Hertfordshire.

The hospital trusts include Imperial College Healthcare Trust, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London North West Healthcare, Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust and Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

Several Society of Radiographers' staff have been valuable in the design, guidance and nurturing of the work.

Lead for the group: Consultant radiographer Jeremy Weldon.

Practice Educators: Rachel Hyman, previous CT superintendent and experienced CT radiographer at Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust; Phillip Regelous, previous ED superintendent, experienced radiographer, student reporting radiographer at London North West Healthcare; Katie Dawson, previous general superintendent and experienced radiographer, and student co-ordinator at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS patients to benefit from faster scans and test results thanks to new roles in radiography