SoR warns CDC programme at risk from lack of diagnostic capacity

"Private companies don’t have radiographers on the payroll sat around idle"

Published: 04 August 2023 Trade Union & IR

The Society of Radiographers has challenged today’s Government announcement around the Community Diagnostic Centre (CDC) programme.

SoR leaders say it is another missed opportunity to start to resolve the real problem behind rising waiting lists – namely the lack of diagnostic staff and total capacity.

Society Executive Director Dean Rogers said: “For CDCs and diagnostic radiography this isn’t about accessing existing spare capacity currently going unused in the private sector. Private companies don’t have radiographers on the payroll sat around idle. Today’s announcement talks about a relatively small increase in available equipment but yet again says nothing about additional staffing capacity”.

He added: “CDCs are meant to be about expanding the diagnostic capacity and bringing it closer to patients to reduce the numbers visiting acute hospitals. They are a good idea which we support. We’re working closely with NHS England to make sure standards for patients and staff terms and conditions are safe and fair. However, today’s announcement has yet again missed off staffing capacity”.

Deeply concerned

“The NHS Workforce Plan barely mentions radiography and we are deeply concerned that the gap between demand for radiographers and the supply of staff continues to widen and will go on doing so. The plan also says next to nothing about retention of existing staff. Until keeping staff is the core focus of Government attention, waiting lists will continue to rise and a great idea, like the CDC programme, will fail to meet its potential.”

Dean continued: “Politicians are desperate to have something to say and look like they have some solution but they are avoiding the honest reality – you can rent hundreds of machines from whoever you want but they won’t help patients unless you do more to recruit and retain diagnostic radiography staff to operate them and to ensure high quality of care is provided for patients. Presently, CDCs are competing with acute hospitals for the same pool of staff. There is a danger that the only winner will be agencies who drive up the price for everyone”. 

Ongoing dispute

Currently 1 in 10 existing NHS radiographer positions are vacant and it is recognised by NHS England that the existing capacity is not enough to meet current demand. Estimates for the number of additional diagnostic radiographers range from 30% to 40% over the next decade. 

The NHS Workforce Plan has been criticised for barely mentioning radiography and there are severe doubts about the funding promised being enough to sustain the promised additional staff. 

The SoR is in a dispute with the Government about workforce capacity and linked pay and reward, having taken 48-hours of strike action in July with potential for further strike action unless ministers enter meaningful discussions about addressing the radiography workforce crisis.

Image: Eva Slusarek