Radiographer reporting grows as NHS struggles with radiology staff shortages

Fears of 44% shortfall in consultant radiologists by 2025

Published: 28 April 2021 Government & NHS

The number of radiographers in reporting roles has increased over the past five years as workforce shortages have increased among radiologists, according to a survey by the Royal College of Radiologists.

In the Clinical Radiology UK Workforce Census 2020, 81% of trusts and boards said they were employing radiographers in reporting roles, an increase from 72% five years ago.

However, the number of those roles varies significantly across trusts and health boards. As one clinical director said: ‘We have ongoing training of reporting radiographers, but limited support... to backfill their roles to enable increased reporting time.'

Almost half (45%) of trusts and health boards said they left some categories of images auto-reported or unreported. 

The survey identified 433 consultant radiologist vacancies, equating to 10% of radiologist jobs unfilled. In 2020, nearly two-thirds of consultant vacancies remained unfilled after a year, double the proportion reported in 2015.

The situation means that 58% of radiology clinical directors now believe there are insufficient consultant radiologists in their department to deliver safe and effective care.

The report echoes the findings of the 2020 diagnostic radiography workforce census published by the College of Radiographers this month, which showed an average current UK vacancy rate of 10.5% in diagnostic radiographers.

Charlotte Beardmore, Director of Professional Policy at the Society and College of Radiographers, said there was an essential need to grow the imaging workforce to respond to the growing service demand as identified in the Richards report last year.

‘The training pipeline for radiographers needs to increase year on year, both through the traditional and apprenticeship routes, and there must be investment by the NHS in both the development of support roles including those of Assistant Practitioners, and new practitioner roles within service. Investment in the NHS will be essential to support those completing training having roles to go into, within service.’

Professor Mark Callaway, radiology workforce lead at RCR, said: ‘The staffing forecast for 2025 makes grim reading, but, even more worryingly, swathes of demoralised radiologists are imminently looking to work less or leave the NHS.

‘Without thousands more radiologists – as well as radiographers, nurses and support staff – patients will inevitably continue to face long, anxious waits for radiology services, missing out on crucial early diagnoses and life-saving image-guided surgery.’