The Society has warned that the government risks 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' after a health minister confirmed that an additional 3,500 radiographers will be required to run NHS England's planned network of Community Diagnostic Centres (CDCs).
Responding to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Helen Hayes, junior minister Edward Agar said that a significant expansion of the NHS workforce would be required to staff the proposed plans to place diagnostic services in the community rather than in hospitals.
It is planned to spend £2.3bn setting up at least 100 CDCs by early 2025 with an end goal of 160 and the policy is a significant plank of the government's “elective recovery plan” to tackle a huge treatment backlog that has built up in the wake of the pandemic.
"Community diagnostic centres will be launched to expand diagnostic services in England. Professor Sir Mike Richards’ review of diagnostic services estimates that to support this expansion, it would require an additional 2,000 radiologists, 3,500 radiographers and approximately 500 advanced practitioners to undertake image reporting," said Agar.
"The review also recommends expanding the workforce in endoscopy, cardiorespiratory, genomics and pathology to support the diagnostic services in England.
"NHS England and NHS Improvement and Health Education England are considering staff training and role redesign to enable additional diagnostic capacity and improving workforce productivity using digital diagnostic investments."
But Richard Evans, the Society's chief executive, said that 'there is a real concern that CDCs will be staffed with radiographers and other staff that are only available because they have left jobs elsewhere in the NHS'.
'Robbing Peter to pay Paul is never a good strategy and it could be disastrous for NHS diagnostics as a whole,' he adding that the solution was to train more radiographers and to recruit more from overseas.