Cuts to radiography training places will mean patients will now wait even longer to access diagnostic imaging tests in Northern Ireland (NI).
It has been confirmed by the Department of Health in NI that diagnostic radiography undergraduate places are to be cut by 14%. This decision will have an impact on patients in NI, who are already suffering the longest waiting lists in the UK.
SoR national officer for NI, Cora Regan, said: "Degrading a workforce which is already under severe pressure will only compound the issues facing services in NI. This decision also flies in the face of the diagnostic radiography workforce review which recommended an incremental rise of 10% undergraduate places per year in order to meet demand for imaging services.
"Radiographers are a vital component of diagnosis and treatment, with 9 out of 10 patients encountering a radiographer at some point in their pathway. The current vacancy rate of 12% is already of great concern, and it has been persistently highlighted by the Society of Radiographers that we require much greater investment in the future of imaging and therapeutic services."
In NI, pre-registration radiography programmes are delivered by only one academic institution, Ulster University. Despite this, many of the graduates choose to relocate to the mainland UK for improved pay and career prospects.
Cora continued: "There is a significant lack of foresight and logic in the decision to reduce training opportunities for prospective healthcare professionals. This decision does not demonstrate any respect for the many radiographers already struggling working excessive hours to meet demand, nor does it show any intent to improve diagnostic or treatment pathways for service users in the future.
"This move to reduce educational places is yet another blow for NI, where radiographers have received no offer of a pay increase in 2023, despite the continuing cost of living crisis.
"While untenable pay and conditions continue to make our profession less attractive to graduates, this recent news has also rendered radiography less accessible to those to strive to work within it. This is not acceptable for our workforce, and not acceptable for the safety of our patients who are already suffering on long waiting lists."