'Digital connectivity key to future of imaging services'

National specialty adviser spells out NHS strategy for imaging

Published: 26 May 2021 Government & NHS

The organisation of diagnostic imaging services into networks and the sharing of digital images are essential to solving radiography’s workload and recruitment problems.

This was the message from Dr Sam Hare, the recently appointed national specialty adviser for imaging at NHS England, who spoke at the online National Conference for Radiology Managers 2021, organised by Philips and the SCoR.

Dr Hare said the Richards report on NHS diagnostic services had articulated the challenges faced by the profession while providing a platform to deliver change. ‘This all represents a key opportunity for the radiology community and one we should seize,’ he said.

The report recommended the launch of community diagnostic hubs across the country, the expansion of the imaging workforce by 4,000 radiographers, a doubling of CT scanning capacity and an equipment renewal programme.

Dr Hare said: ‘Workforce is probably our biggest challenge. It’s very difficult to recruit 4,000 human beings. We need to work better with the resources we have. We need to use them more effectively.

‘Demand is going through the roof. Departments are creaking at the seams trying to get patients into scanners. But the offshoot of that is how we are going to report those images. We have to shift our metric. It’s not just about making pretty pictures, it’s about what happens next. What’s the outcome?’

Dr Hare said the existing NHS strategy to develop distinct networks of imaging services from 2023 was ‘an incredibly exciting idea’ that would allow ‘enhanced, incentivised insourcing’ to help balance demand with capacity and deliver ‘clinical standardisation’.

The key to achieving the potential of imaging networks would be improvements to digital connectivity between the member organisations and across different locations.

‘We just need to supply them with the digital platform and the architecture to access the images to allow seamless reporting, whether that’s from home or their trusts. It also allows you to properly model demand and capacity and work together,’ Dr Hare added.

‘Networks bring the imaging community together for the benefit of the patients and nothing could be better than that as a philosophy for the imaging community.’

Charlotte Beardmore, SoR director of professional policy, said it was essential to invest in the existing workforce to support the strategy: ‘We welcome the additional funding to support post-registration education and training. But more investment will be required to develop the radiography workforce, including the creation of additional funded posts at advanced practitioner level to support new models of delivery for patients alongside the vision for digital connectivity.’