SoR president elect Tom Welton reflects on 2023

As Christmas approaches, president elect Tom Welton takes the opportunity to thanks members for 2023 and look ahead to 2024

Published: 27 December 2023 SoR

It seems almost customary when getting to this time of the year to start reflecting on the past 12 months and projecting forward to the incoming year. 

This year has been a milestone year, for not only the Society and College of radiographers but also for myself. Progressing from being your vice president to president elect, I have been working hard with notable people both inside and outside the SoR on bringing together my objectives for my presidential year starting in 2024.   

Looking at the year that has passed, I can confidently say on behalf of everyone at the SoR, it’s been a busy one! Sitting on both the UK council board (SoR) and the College board of trustees (CoR), I have been privy to discussions relating to all corners of our great isles and beyond. 

Hearing about the highs and lows of goings on around the UK narrows the vision on the state of our healthcare system and just how vital the membership of the SoR really are.

'Enough is enough and we must fight for change'

Most notably is the industrial action taken in both England and in Northern Ireland. As a trade union representative, I understand and acknowledge the work and pressure put on the staff during this time and the fact this decision was not taken lightly. 

The emotional trauma for staff ‘causing’ cancelled appointments and delay in treatments is never an easy one to take on, and I thank every single member who went on strike as well as the membership providing the derogations. 

For me, the stress of a couple of days is only a drop in the ocean compared to the pressure seen by the membership on a daily basis. Seeing a high number of cancer centres and children’s hospitals on the list was a shock to me but the more I reflect on it, the more I understand. 

Any patient delayed for diagnostics or treatment is difficult however the message sent by our paediatric and oncology membership is strong. Enough is enough and we must fight for change. Too many have suffered for too long. 

'A system on its knees'

In Northern Ireland, the situation has another layer. Politically in stalemate, staff are producing remarkable outcomes in unprecedented levels of difficulty. I was lucky enough to travel to their two-day strike with current president Dave Pillborough and have lengthy discussions across the country. 

I listened to the membership and public on a system on its knees and at a seriously worrying turning point for healthcare in the region. As I write this, the troubling news of further stagnation in talks with the DUP has just been announced, meaning no progress is expected this side of 2023 – but we are forever hopeful on progress in 2024. 

I welcome further industrial action scheduled, and urge all members to understand that change is never easy, but in numbers we can forge improvements.  

'Amazing contributions and energy'

Other notable areas this year includes a movement in our QSI system management, new faces in both the SoR and CoR, and a comprehensive update on our education and career framework. There has also been tireless work across the length and breadth of radiology and radiotherapy. 

We attended multiple all party parliamentary groups to lobby and discuss on behalf of our membership, including high end matters such as sonography regulation and prescribing rights. I am proud of the work being done across the SoR and CoR and thank everyone involved, especially the membership who drive this work forward. 

In all, it is easy to write a pessimistic reflection of the year that has gone. Unprecedented levels of industrial action, cost of living crisis, all time high waiting lists, more government cabinet members than I care to count, a seemingly failing NHS and so much more. 

It’s important to acknowledge this, as well as the mental and physical strain placed on the staff and public. I am however an eternal optimist and wish to see the positives. Through all this, amazing contributions and energy has been found. 

'Delivering above and beyond'

Day to day, SoR members are delivering above and beyond for the sake of their patients, individuals are performing incredibly despite the financial pressures. I have always loved hearing these positive stories, so here are just a few: 

Emma Rose was part of the contingent who travelled to Chicago this year for the annual conference RSNA. I am told the speech blew the room away on her journey to becoming a consultant radiographer in paediatric intervention. Emma is a personality to watch out for, I look forward to seeing this career continue to develop! 

Christina Malamateniou continues to be a shining star in radiography practice. She brings her kind and caring energy to a research world shaped by her determination and skills. Her work with the SoR shapes the profession and is a key figure in our profession. 

Emma Hyde has this year become the president of UKIO (United Kingdom Imaging and Oncology conference). Taking the reins from radiologist Rizwan Malik, Emma has already put her new stamp on this role and is filling the big shoes Rizwan leaves.  

Kerry Mills leads the NHSE workforce, training and education team for cancer and diagnostics. Kerry is a name that continues to pop up across radiography. Influential, driven and dedicated, her flag flying at a national level is amazing. I was lucky to be able to attend her talk at UKIO this year on supporting career development opportunities. 

Jonathan McNulty is our editor in chief for the journal Radiography. Going from strength to strength, it’s great to see research continuing to improve in our profession. Under the reins of Jonathan, it’s amazing to hear the hard work across the editorial board. 

Naomi Shiner became professor of director of simulation and skills at the University of Keele and continues to be the beacon for education evolution for radiographers. A central part to my own development in the simulation world, Naomi, and her passionate approach to a patient centred outlook has forged a real change in the pedagogical approaches to student radiographers and beyond. 

Notably, her sessions at UKIO this year were some of the best in the whole conference. Patient voices such as Heidi lit up the room and left the audience captivated on every word with Naomi’s wisdom forming a central ribbon of intelligence throughout.

'2024 is one of the most important years in SoR history'

So 2024, what can we expect? What I do know is that nothing is for certain. Living in a world that is unpredictable and fragile, we must expect further strain on our healthcare sector. I fear there will be no quick turn around within our NHS and potentially the situation could get worse before it gets better. 

We should see a general election in 2024 and the political football of our healthcare system is set to be in the forefront of discussion for all parties. The subject of pay and staff working standards will remain a hot topic and developing novel ways of safely increasing our workforce will continue to evolve. 

The SoR continues to be well placed and active in pay talks that are certainly far from over. Diagnostics and cancer care are continuing to be top of all performance indicators and radiographers see a continued pressure to perform. 

For me, 2024 is potentially one of the most important in the 102 year history of the SoR. We are living through a historic time for healthcare and a national health service in need of reform. 

'A strong and committed membership base'

What this looks like and how this is embedded is in the hands of the unions and the SoR must be in the centre of all these discussions with a strong and committed membership base ready to shout. 

Personally, I want to look back and be proud of what I have achieved. I want to look back and at very least say ‘I tried’, I want to look back and know I forged even just a small amount of change in our profession. I call for you all to see what part you will play in 2024. 

Please reflect on your own year and set career resolutions for 2024. I wish you all a happy new year and thank you to all the membership for the work being done in our amazing profession.

(Image: Eva Slusarek)