SoR welcomes new government after landslide Labour win, but warns of difficulties ahead

After Thursday's general election ended in a landslide majority for the Labour party, the Society has responded to the news

Published: 05 July 2024 Government & NHS

The SoR has warned that the incoming Labour government must pay particular attention to the “crisis” being faced by the NHS. 

Sir Keir Starmer is set to enter Number 10 on Friday (July 5) as prime minister after his party won a landslide victory. Former prime minister Rishi Sunak has accepted responsibility for the Conservative loss, which is expected to be the worst in the party’s history.

SoR chief executive Richard Evans said the Society is encouraged by Labour’s apparent willingness to engage with the NHS, as well as its promise to invest in radiography technology and equipment.

But he highlighted the state of crisis faced by the NHS, which Labour pledged to address in its election manifesto.

“There is no magic wand we can wave to solve the crisis facing the NHS – and it would be a mistake for the new government to underestimate the scale of the challenge that awaits it,” he said. “Part of the reason for the change of government is the public’s frustration at the never-ending NHS crisis.”

“This is primarily a workforce crisis, rooted in a funding problem. The UK has not been investing enough in the NHS for a very long time. The new government has a chance to break that cycle of underinvestment and short-term decision-making.” 

Increasing demand for NHS services

Mr Evans addressed Labour’s commitment to lower NHS waiting times, which the party said it would do by “incentivising” staff to take on extra appointments out of hours. 

While the SoR would engage in talks with the party over these incentives, its members are already taking on extra work, Mr Evans noted.

“Labour talks about tackling waiting lists by incentivising staff to take additional appointments out of hours,” he continued. “While SoR looks forward to discussing these incentives, a recent survey of our members revealed that 82 per cent are working in departments that already rely on overtime shifts to cover staff shortages.”

“Most of our members already work on 24/7 rosters, which include regular overtime and weekend work. It is not uncommon for radiographers to be working a 48-hour week, in order to deliver the best possible care.  

“In the face of current staff shortages, frankly, there are no additional hours left to work – or to do so safely.”

Investing in new technology...and staff

According to Mr Evans, diagnostic radiographers have told the SoR that new CT and MRI scanners are sitting unused in departments because they did not come with a budget for radiographers.

While the new technology and machinery is necessary, it must be accompanied by an investment in new staff, Mr Evans highlighted.

“New machinery is certainly needed – it will be more efficient and effective than the old machines in many departments,” he said. “But investment in technology is not going to make a difference to NHS waiting lists on its own.”

“Tech needs people. While AI can speed up the process of reporting imaging results, there can be no imaging without an appropriately educated and trained radiography workforce – in fact, regulations require it.”

“Unless we close the gap between supply of staff and the known rise in demand, waiting lists will continue to grow.”

Ultimately tackling the crisis

The SoR’s own manifesto, released in March, outlined a plan to address the NHS crisis. This begins with paying staff appropriately, implementing pay restoration and investing in apprenticeships to grow the workforce. This, said Mr Evans, would directly reduce waiting times.

“These actions would be important signposts to the NHS workforce that relief and positive recognition is available,” Mr Evans continued. “We are ready to engage positively. 

“We want to see the new government working in close partnership with unions and other stakeholders to deliver effective change – doctors, nurses and radiographers are vital to bringing down NHS waiting times.”

“It’s encouraging that our concerns have been heard – and it is critical that politicians continue to listen and engage with us after the election. This is the only way to ensure that waiting lists come down – and stay down. ” 

(Picture: Keir Starmer and wife Victoria. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)