Radiographers can go forward with optimism as they take leading NHS role

Dean Rogers reflects on a tough year but sees the profession moving centre stage

Published: 21 December 2020 Government & NHS

SoR Director of Industrial Strategy & Member Relations Dean Rogers reflects on his first year at the SoR and what the next act has in store for members and the SoR Trade Union team.

In Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ the melancholic Jacques famously remarks ‘All the world’s a stage’. There hasn’t been much to like about 2020, especially for theatre-goers, but the sense that we’re all players in dramatic times has had particular resonance – albeit in a stressful improvised production that’s part tragedy, part farce.

Members are understandably exhausted, tired and collapsing in the wings. You could be forgiven for not wanting to go back on for the next act. Exactly what happens next hasn’t been scripted and there could be challenging scenes coming up.

After opening to standing ovations, the recent grumblings from the posh seats about how much the show costs whilst insisting on giving all the front of house and backstage jobs to their friends is both upsetting and unsettling.

However, recent developments and plot shifts suggest causes for optimism - especially for radiographers and the SoR. These should refill our confidence as we increasingly move from the chorus to a central, leading role.

Firstly, the value of radiographers and their involvement in almost every NHS scene is being recognised – at least by those tasked with directing the production. For example, the Richards’ report not only offers a potential plot map but couldn’t be clearer in its stage directions. Our service was ‘at a tipping point before Covid’ and the pandemic has ‘exacerbated the pre-existing problems’ says Richards, adding that ‘radiographers are key’ to any hope the NHS have to meeting ‘cancer, stroke, heart, respiratory and other targets’.

His call for 500 more advanced practice / reporting radiographers, 3,500 more diagnostic radiographers, 2,500 more assistants and 2,670 more administrative and support staff, have been fully accepted by Government and NHS leaders, alongside his calls for huge investment in modernising equipment. These calls are echoed by ministers and health leaders in the Celtic nations – especially in Northern Ireland where long awaited pay parity has been followed by improved engagement around future service delivery that gives a leading part to radiographers.

The Richards’ report is only the latest recognition. Last year’s Cancer UK report made similar recommendations for therapeutic radiography. We have already secured a record number of student placements across the UK. The SoR had helped fight off bursaries and fees in the Celtic nations and 2020 saw the English government climb down and introduce a student allowance.

This isn’t enough to get close to securing the increased numbers of future radiographers needed but it’s an important start and has shifted the momentum. The huge increase in participation in our Student Forum and the appointment in 2021 of a new Student and New Professionals Officer will help secure the next generation’s voice inside the SoR.

Our Rep network has grown to over 1,000 during 2020. The diversity of our volunteer base is also the envy of many bigger unions, reflecting the age and race profile of our wider membership, with 16% identifying as being non-white British or non-white European. In 2020, we committed to becoming an anti-racist organisation and this engagement is helping us make a positive start.

Our Reps and Officers have helped resolve 100’s of individual and collective issues this year. Resilience and determination have been key in securing some big settlements in cases involving job evaluation, non-payment of allowances and also six-figure personal injury settlements, when Trusts failed to act on the outcome of risk assessments. A key aim in 2021 is transferring and revamping our training so all Reps can access what they need remotely; and new ways of meeting using technologies can continue to maximise Rep and member engagement.

The recent issues for sonographers and supporters attending ante-natal scans has spotlighted how and why risk assessments have been the key tool for Reps in 2020. As with PPE, the SoR has stood firm and protected members and patients despite political pressure. We’ll continue to stand as the independent voice of all radiography disciplines and modalities in 2021, strengthened by these successes.

Many of the same challenges will be reprised in 2021 – workload pressures with too few staff to meet rising demand; fair pay and reward; supporting manager members and protecting professional standards when pressures come down for the impossible. Other sub-plots will take centre stage – fighting ‘Uberisation’ and protecting terms and standards if services are outsourced; support for overseas members with complex new visa arrangements; and tackling racism in NHS promotions, discipline and grievances.

But this year’s successes and the way the SoR has gone about securing them, coupled with the increased recognition for radiographers, suggest that we’ll continue to lead the rest of the cast. The Cinderella service has come to the ball!