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Radical overhaul of imaging and diagnostic services recommended in landmark NHS England report

2 October, 2020

The NHS must radically overhaul the way that MRI, CT and other diagnostic services are delivered, according to a major review commissioned by NHS England.

Over the next five years the plan would see Community Diagnostic Hubs launched across the country, the imaging workforce expanded by 4,000 radiographers, a doubling of CT scanning capacity and a comprehensive equipment renewal programme.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens commissioned Professor Sir Mike Richards to undertake the independent review of diagnostic services in England as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Professor Sir Mike, who was the first NHS national cancer director and the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said diagnostic services had already reached a ‘tipping point’ as a result of increasing demand but the need for radical change had been further amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: ‘While these changes will take time and investment in facilities and more staff, it is the right moment to seize the opportunities to assist recovery and renewal of the NHS.

‘Not only will these changes make services more accessible and convenient for patients but they will help improve outcomes for patients with cancer and other serious conditions.’

The Community Diagnostic Hubs would be part of a drive to separate services for patients with suspected Covid-19, and should include as a minimum CT, MRI, ultrasound and X-ray services.

The report also calls for investment in reporting radiographers and the implementation of professional regulation for sonographers in line with the SCoR’s long-running campaign. Additional workforce requirements include:

  • 2,000 Radiologists

  • 500 Advanced practitioner/reporting radiographers

  • 3,500 Radiographers

  • 2,500 Assistant practitioners

  • 2,670 Admin and support staff

  • 220 Physicists

Sir Mike said there would be major efficiency gains, including reductions in costs of CT and MRI scanners through bulk buying, increased use of same day emergency care through improved access to diagnostics in A&E departments, and shorter hospital stays through tests undertaken on the day of request.

SCoR President Chris Kalinka welcomed the report, which was presented to NHS England on 1 October: ‘We at SCoR fully support the recommended increase in radiographer and associated imaging staff numbers to provide a multidisciplinary, high quality diagnostic service to our patients.

‘We call on the report’s findings and recommendations to be supported, fully funded and implemented in a timely fashion.’

NHS England and Improvement has set up a national Diagnostics Programme Board, co-chaired by Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for England, and Hugh McCaughey, National Director of Improvement, to coordinate implementation of this report. Detailed implementation plans will be finalised once the Spending Review capital and revenue budget outcome is confirmed, launching a 'rolling programme of investment in additional and replacement equipment and workforce capacity building measures across the 2021-25 period'.

Click here to download the report: Diagnostics: Recovery and Renewal - Independent Review of Diagnostic Services for NHS England 

Image: SOPA Images/ LightRocket/Getty Images

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