Around 1300 extra consultant radiologists are needed in England over the coming years if the NHS is to meet the increasing demand for emergency interventional treatments, diagnostic imaging and screening, the BMA warns.
Recent Department of Health projections on workforce
show there is a need for a focused and planned expansion in consultant numbers to meet the increasing demand for radiological services.
Although government figures on diagnostic waiting times published yesterday show improvements in waiting, this level of activity cannot be sustained with the current workforce levels. The demand for ultrasound, CT and MRI scans is increasing year on year, and with complex imaging now being required around the clock, more consultants are needed to ensure the service can be delivered more quickly and at the highest standard.
The Healthcare Commission's report on its investigation into maternal deaths at Northwick Park Hospital recognised that there was a shortage of suitably trained interventional radiologists and recommended all obstetric units should have urgent access to this crucial emergency treatment at all times.
The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) supports the need for consultant expansion. Dr Gill Markham, Vice-President of the RCR and Dean of the Faculty for Clinical Radiology, said: '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 programme and Colonic screening programme. 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."
The BMA recently launched a campaign to enhance the quality of care for patients by expanding consultant numbers across many specialities. Dr Jonathan Fielden, 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. Ad-hoc commissioning of poorly integrated private providers is not a long term solution. The NHS needs to build its own sustainable infrastructure to deliver for the longer term benefit of patients.
"Focused expansion of consultant numbers will not only help meet the extra demands on the NHS, but as medical leaders and innovators, this will enhance the development of local services and provision of teaching and research."