Creating a safe reporting framework for UK imaging

Published: 01 November 2018 Ezine

In July 2018, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a review of services of NHS radiology departments in England. The review found widespread variation in radiology reporting, both in terms of the timely clinical turnaround of reports and the administrative management and escalation of potentially dangerous backlogs. It also highlighted well-documented radiologist and radiographer shortages which are exacerbating workload pressures.

The CQC called on NHS Improvement to create national standards for the turnaround of radiology reports, and on The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) and the Society and College of Radiographers to develop a practical framework to help hospitals manage report turnaround times safely.

The colleges’ framework will include:

  • A Quality Standard for Imaging (QSI) using the existing standard for accreditation of imaging. The QSI will express the quality service patients should expect.
  • Reviewing the service accreditation process to encourage uptake of accreditation against the QSI. Accreditation of an imaging service will indicate that quality management and quality improvement are business as usual.
  • Reviewing and adding to existing professional guidance and advice issued jointly or individually by the colleges.
  • Promoting the rollout of clinical decision support software for GPs and hospitals, which integrates the RCR’s renowned iRefer guidelines so that patients are seamlessly referred for the right imaging test at the right time. This has been available for some time but the NHS in the four UK nations has not committed the small amount of funding required.
  • Completing work by the colleges and Health Education England (HEE) to define the standards for curricula and assessment for reporting radiographers and the framework for service delivery. This will continue to strengthen and assure team working across imaging departments.

Standards and professional support notwithstanding, the crucial issue remains that services will require more staff to provide timely and quality reporting in the face of the UK’s spiralling demand for imaging.

The colleges will continue to campaign for the additional investment in the radiologist and radiographer workforce that is urgently needed to safeguard patients, as well as calling for dedicated capital investment in imaging equipment and IT connectivity.

Without that investment, the quality services and timely reporting our patients deserve will not be possible.