Approximately 1,300 extra consultant radiologists are needed in England over the coming years if the National Health Service is to meet the increasing demand for emergency interventional treatments, diagnostic imaging and screening, according to the British Medical Association.
Recent Department of Health projections show that there is a need for a focused and planned expansion in consultant numbers to meet the increasing demand for radiological services, BMA said.
Although government figures on diagnostic waiting times show improvements, this level of activity cannot be sustained with the current workforce levels, the BMA reported. The demand for ultrasound, CT and MRI scans is increasing each year, and with complex imaging now being constantly required, more consultants are needed to ensure the service can be delivered more quickly and at the highest standard.
Specifically, the Healthcare Commission’s report on its investigation into maternal deaths at Northwick Park Hospital recognized that there was a shortage of suitably trained interventional radiologists and recommended that all obstetric units have urgent access to this emergency treatment at all times.
The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) supports the need for consultant expansion.
“Demand for scans and complex imaging is rising year on year and is set to increase even further in light of recent developments with extra patients being referred from the government’s planned extension of the breast program and colonic screening program. We need a steady and sustained expansion in consultant numbers if we are to deliver this level of service to patients safely and to the high standards that patients deserve,” said Gill Markham, MD, vice president of the RCR.
The BMA recently launched a campaign to enhance the quality of care for patients by expanding consultant numbers across many specialties. Jonathan Fielden, MD, chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee, said: “Although waiting times for diagnostics seem to be improving; this progress cannot be sustained unless capacity is expanded to meet future rises in demand…The NHS needs to build its own sustainable infrastructure to deliver for the longer term benefit of patients.”