SoR welcomes Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment to cancer treatment, but ‘disappointed’ by lack of Therapeutic Radiographer mention

The party has pledged to recruit more nurses, but made no mention of the importance of Therapeutic Radiographers in treating cancer

Published: 11 June 2024 Government & NHS

While the SoR has welcomed the focus on cancer treatment in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, it is “disappointed” by the lack of attention to Therapeutic Radiographers.

The Liberal Democrats' newly launched election manifesto emphasises there are more than a hundred thousand staff vacancies in the NHS in England alone, identifying that a crisis in staff retention, long waiting times and missed targets have left patients unable to access the care they need.

Ahead of the General Election on 4 July the Liberal Democrats have pledged to boost cancer survival rates and introduce a guarantee for 100 per cent of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral. It has also promised to replace ageing radiotherapy machines and increase their overall number.

Boosting cancer survival

In pursuit of its goals for cancer treatment, the party has also promised to recruit more cancer nurses, so that “every patient has a dedicated specialist supporting them throughout their treatment”.

However, the Society has warned, this will not be enough to tackle the crisis.

Dean Rogers, director of industrial strategy for the Society of Radiographers, welcomed the party’s emphasis on boosting cancer survival rates.

He said: “The opportunity to replace out-of-date machines with newer and more efficient equipment is very welcome.

"But it is disappointing that, while the Lib Dems have pledged to recruit more cancer nurses, they have not mentioned the need for more Therapeutic Radiographers – who are the healthcare professionals who plan and deliver radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients.”

Tackling the workforce crisis

The average vacancy rate for therapeutic radiography has risen to 8.4 per cent in the UK. 

Shortages in the therapeutic radiography workforce mean that the current target for 96 per cent of cancer patients to receive radiotherapy treatment within 31 days has not been met since July 2021.

In some hospitals Therapeutic Radiographers are being forced to prioritise certain cancer patients – delaying radiotherapy for all but the most urgent cases – because they lack the capacity to deliver treatment.

Mr Rogers added: “Until the radiography workforce crisis is tackled, it will be impossible to deliver the Lib Dems’ guarantee that 100 per cent of patients will start cancer treatment within 62 days of urgent referral.”

Train, recruit and retain

He added that the Society is “pleased to see that the Lib Dems have acknowledged the need to train, recruit and retain NHS staff – in particular, by focusing on pay, retention and flexible working.”

“We are also pleased that they have pledged to end the false economy of spending money on agency workers – as the SoR has repeatedly pointed out, relying on agency staff to fill the gaps for missing radiographers is a hugely expensive way to run a health service,” Mr Rogers added.

He called for all political parties to support the Radiography Manifesto, to ensure that NHS departments are fully staffed and NHS workers fairly treated, and that patients receive the care they need, when they need it.