SoR responds to health secretary’s speech at Conservative Party conference 

Secretary of state Steve Barclay announced a £30 million investment in NHS technology during his speech in Manchester 

Published: 04 October 2023 Government & NHS

SoR has responded to the health secretary’s Conservative Party conference speech, which included the announcement of a £30 million investment in technology for the NHS. 

The Secretary of State Steve Barclayaddressed Conservative Party members in Manchester on Tuesday (3 October), and announced plans for investment to help ease the pressures on the NHS. 

While the funding for new technologies has been welcomed by SoR, the society’s director of industry strategy Dean Rogers, said that developing tech does not compensate for the growing workforce crisis in the NHS. 

The best possible care 

Responding to Mr Barclay’s speech, Mr Rogers said: “We welcome and support the plan to invest £30 million to speed up adoption of technology in the NHS. However, investing in technology does not compensate for a lack of investment in the NHS workforce.

"It is pointless to invest in expensive equipment while there remains a shortage of radiographers. Our members talk about MRI scanners standing unused, because they did not come with a budget for radiography professionals to deliver patient care.

“Meanwhile, our members work 60-hour weeks, day and night, to compensate for staff shortages, so as to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care.” 

Latest tech innovations 

In his speech, Mr Barclay said: “It is vital that clinicians have access to the latest technology to save staff time, deliver high quality care and help cut waiting lists – one of the government’s top five priorities.

“This investment will see the latest tech innovations rolled out across the NHS. From virtual ward beds to wearable medical devices, patients will be better supported, and we will ease pressures on hospitals this winter.

“We’re preparing for this winter earlier than ever before, including delivering thousands more hospital beds and hundreds of new ambulances.” 

According to Mr Barclay, new technology could include the expansion of 3D checks to speed up cancer tests, the use of drones to streamline logistics, or solutions to help treat patients at home. 

As part of the announcement, the Department of Health and Social Care said that integrated care systems (ICSs) will be invited to submit bids for a share of the £30 million fund to roll out innovative technology, with applications expected to open this month. 

Workforce crisis

Mr Rogers added: “It was interesting that Mr Barclay spoke about putting more technology in the hands of doctors and nurses, but didn’t mention radiographers – perhaps he, too, realises that there are not enough radiographers in hospital departments.

“Mr Barclay was keen to champion the Conservatives’ long-term workforce plan, but where’s the plan to address the crisis in recruitment and retention today?

“Our members are struggling to make ends meet while the cost of living soars.” 

According to SoR’s most recent workforce census, published in 2022, 94 per cent of respondents said that there were vacant posts for diagnostic radiographers in their departments, while the average weekly earnings for members of the society have increased by just 23 per cent since 2008, compared with 55 per cent nationally. 

SoR on strike 

To coincide with Mr Barclay’s speech, the radiographers across the UK held a 24-hour strike action in response to the pay stagnation and workforce shortages they face. 

As part of the action, SoR members joined striking doctors in a mass protest outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday, in a show of solidarity between NHS professions. 

During the protest, SoR’s head of industry relations, Leandre Archer, addressed the crowds, saying that doctors and radiographers ‘stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight to protect their professions.' 

Picture: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong