“Looming crisis in radiologist numbers” BSIR tells UK Members of Parliament

Trevor Cleveland and Paul Crowe

The British Society of Interventional Radiology (BSIR) took its campaign to improve the numbers of interventional radiologists in the NHS to Westminster, UK, in November, highlighting that this was a critical issue that needed significant Government focus.

At a reception organised by the Medical Technology Group, the BSIR met a number of Members of Parliament (MPs) and discussed the issue of the lack of fully qualified and trainee interventional radiologists. Trevor Cleveland, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Sheffield, UK and vice president of the BSIR and Paul Crowe, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK, discussed the Royal College of Radiologists’ recent report on their workforce census. The report highlighted the lack of radiologists across the UK and a looming crisis that could be faced in the next few years as many current radiologists hit retirement age.

The Royal College of Radiologist Report showed that in the ten year period from 2002–03 to 2012–13 showed:

  • Number of imaging and radiodiagnostic examinations or tests increased from 27 million to nearly 40 million.
  • Fewer than half the vacant interventional posts were successfully appointed to.
  • In general radiology, three in every four posts advertised at small and medium non-teaching hospitals failed to result in an appointment in 2012.
  • A total of 283 unfilled consultant posts were identified as of 31 December 2012
  • More than one in five of the consultant workforce in the East of England and South East Coast, and one in four in Wales, are estimated to retire in the next five years.
  • Almost one in three of the current consultant clinical radiology workforce is expected to retire in the next ten years.

Cleveland said: “This is a critical issue that needs to be given significant Government focus. As we have seen the number of radiodiagnostic tests continue to increase every year, as does the need for urgent image guided treatments. However, the number of qualified radiologists has not increased to support it. A significant number of tests are now being reported by Radiologists outside the UK, or by private suppliers. The situation is also acute in interventional radiology, especially when you look at the number of interventional radiologists that are set to retire in the next few years. Whilst there is a recognition that more radiologists and interventional radiologists are needed, the overall increase in training numbers is tiny.

“For patients the situation is critical. Access to radiology treatment conducted by qualified radiologists is critical in delivering rapid treatment to patients (including those suffering trauma, bleeding and strokes). Given the current Government’s objective of delivering a seven-day NHS, part of which will mean radiology services delivered 24/7, this situation needs addressing urgently.”