Celebrating London imaging services recovery work

Five-fold increase in activity levels to tackle Cover-19 backlog

Published: 18 December 2020 London

After the significant impact of the initial Covid lockdown, London imaging services have almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels of activity thanks to the hard work of colleagues in all areas of the service.

This recovery was driven in part by a programme of work with all five Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), led by NHS England and NHS Improvement London. The work of the programme including key successes and plans for medium-term service improvement are set out below.

When the London recovery programme was launched in summer 2020 imaging services were under enormous operational pressure. Covid infection control protocols significantly reduced the available capacity of scanners and staff, resulting in a material reduction in activity and build-up of backlog and associated clinical risk.

The immediate focus of the London programme was on MRI, CT and Non-Obstetric Ultrasound.

Owing to the hard work of all colleagues working in imaging services across the systems and in the programme, the London region saw an over five-fold increase in activity levels (across the three modalities) from approximately 8,800 patients per week to over 56,000; representing an almost pre-pandemic level of activity compared with the prior year. The backlog has also reduced by over 70% since its peak.

This significant improvement has been thanks to the diligent and hard work of our imaging teams who have working tirelessly to continue to deliver high quality care to our patients. Professor Clive Kay, Chief Executive of Kings College NHS Foundation Trust and Chief Executive sponsor of the programme notes ‘imaging services were already stretched prior to the pandemic, the significant recovery we have seen is testament to the hard work of imaging staff in all areas’.

Whilst the programme has made excellent progress to date, there is plenty more to do, especially given the challenges the services faced before the pandemic. In the medium term the programme will cover areas including but not limited to: harmonisation of core MRI protocols across London, development of ultrasound clinical referral criteria, development of ultrasound academies, developing and enhancing the role of the support workforce starting with a pilot of revised workforce models for CT, IT interoperability objectives as well as considerations for community diagnostic hubs, and specialist pathway development (e.g. MSK and Interventional Radiology).

These medium term, more transformational programmes are being developed and monitored through a newly established Clinical Leaders Group (CLG) for London. The group works hand in hand with each of the nascent Imaging Clinical Networks. Its Chair, Dr Amrish Mehta, Consultant Neuroradiologist from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust notes ‘we are proud of the work already commenced in the programme and the dedication of all clinical staff to its development’.The CLG and imaging networks include radiographer leadership who play a pivotal role in shaping the programme and representing the views of the radiographic workforce. 

Simone Towie, Radiographic Lead and Group Head of Imaging at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust notes ‘we are grateful for and proud of the radiographic workforce and leaders for their integral role and views
which have been and continue to be vital to the success of the programme’. In spite of the second wave, imaging activity levels are currently being sustained in London, again thanks to the hard work of all colleagues working in the service.

If you would like to know more about the programme, please feel free to contact the imaging programme lead for London, Richard Knight at [email protected]