Royal College of Radiologists warns of chronic staff shortages

Two new reports from the Royal College of Radiologists demonstrate the scale of workforce shortages in diagnostic and cancer departments across the country and the devastating impact on cancer patients.

The clinical radiology  and  clinical oncology  workforce census reports secured a 100% response rate with every single cancer centre head and clinical director of radiology departments completing the survey.

Across both professions, the workforce crisis is deepening and the annual reports reveal that in almost all UK cancer centres (97%), patients’ treatment was delayed because of staff shortages. Shortages are causing monthly delays in starting chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment in about half of cancer centres, and weekly delays in about a quarter of centres, compromising patient care.   

The RCR says that the UK is "sitting on a ticking timebomb" in cancer diagnosis and care, putting patients at risk. Doctors are leaving due to stress and burnout, and more than 75% of clinical oncologists and radiologists who left the NHS in 2022 were under 60. 

Dr. Katharine Halliday, RCR President, said: “All doctors want to give patients the best possible care, but workforce shortages are hampering our ability to do that. There are simply not enough doctors to safely treat the volume of patients needed, and this will only worsen as demand rises and more doctors leave the NHS. We face moral injury from dealing with the impossible balancing act of an overstretched service, burned out staff and ever-rising demand for care.  

“Action from the government is now critical. We must train more doctors, while doing more to retain the ones we have. There is no luxury of time: doctors are stretched, stressed, and scared for their patients. By publishing the long-awaited workforce plan, the government can reset the system and ensure patients receive the care doctors so desperately want to provide.” 

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