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'What do you think of the Image Interpretation Position Statement from RANZCR?'

7 February, 2018

Author: richard evans, chief executive officer

Reporting radiographers

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) is consulting its members on a new position statement: Image Interpretation by Radiographers - Not the Right Solution.

The overview of the document is: “In recent times there have been moves to expand the role of radiographers to include commenting and interpretation of imaging studies. RANZCR Faculty of Clinical Radiology developed a position statement... to consolidate our position on these activities."

The number one question I have been asked in the past week is: “What did you think of the Position Statement from RANZCR?”

So here is what I think:

  • I think it is admirable that the consultation is being conducted in the public domain. You can read the document and find the link for responses.
  • I think that it is perfectly fine for a professional body to clarify its policy position on the domain of clinical service in which its members are engaged.
  • I think that the RANZCR is likely to have a much more accurate perspective on the condition of clinical imaging service delivery in Australia and New Zealand than we can possibly have from the UK.
  • I think that service need should drive service development and innovation and agree that “Optimising patient outcomes and ensuring safety and efficiency of service must form the cornerstone of any changed medical practice”. The experience in the UK shows that team working involving all professionals in the imaging team is particularly important in identifying opportunities for innovation.
  • I think it is great that there are “sufficient radiologists to allow for reporting in Australia” and agree that role development of radiographers should not be motivated solely by professional ambition or cost reduction.
  • I think that where any professional undertakes image reporting this must be done “to the same standard as, or higher than that supplied by a trained radiologist”.
  • I think that clinical professionals act autonomously, are responsible for their own scope of practice and are fully accountable for their actions. Consequently, I agree that “radiologists cannot be held medico-legally responsible for actions taken on the basis of written comments by a radiographer.”
  • I think that the implication in the statement that role development of radiographers in the UK has been pursued for motives other than “a desire to improve quality of service or patient care” is unfortunate and should be corrected.
  • I think that the way the statement quotes UK radiography research on the safety and efficacy of radiographer reporting is poor and appears biased. There is little point, for example, complaining that sources are out of date in comparison to modern imaging methods if no recent research is quoted that might give a better perspective.
  • I think it is worth reiterating that that changes to skills mix at this level demand rigorous programmes of education and training, at Masters level, with radiologist input and support. Radiographers undertaking reporting do this with support from radiologists in the UK.   
  • I think that professions demean themselves when they give in to the temptation to comment on and control another profession’s scope of practice.
  • I think that a very large amount of effort has gone in to drafting a statement which seems intentionally to undermine the radiography profession and display an outdated model of paternalistic professionalism.
  • I think that team working in diagnostic imaging services in Australia and New Zealand could be harmed unless the statement is radically changed. This in turn may impact upon improvements to patient care which can be brought about through service innovation. 
  • I think that patients, ultimately, are at risk.

SCoR will respond formally to the consultation, as we believe will our colleagues in the Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (ASMIRT). See the comment from their President, Taking the 'Team' out of Team Radiology.

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