Patients in Scotland are being put at increased risk from delays in diagnosis because of a lack of trained radiologists, doctors have warned.
According to the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), chronic vacancies and a lack of interested trainees are working against a greater demand for the specialist doctors.
Clinical radiologists are responsible for diagnosing injuries and diseases by interpreting medical imagery – such as X-rays and scans.
‘On the brink of collapse’
Around nine in 10 hospitals said they cannot handle the number of radiology reports that need to be produced each day, according to research from 2015.
Currently, only two of the 12 health boards offer round-the-clock emergency treatment covering minimally invasive pinhole operations – which include procedures to stop bleeding after childbirth or vehicle collisions.
Staff levels of radiology doctors never been “as bad as this”, recalls RCR spokesman Dr Grant Baxter, who has been in the profession for 34 years.
Dr Baxter, who is a consultant radiologist and chairman of the college’s standing Scottish committee, said: “Scottish radiology is on the brink of collapse, and if that happens there will be no medical diagnoses or surgical operations at all, since none can occur without radiologists interpreting the scans and X-rays.
“A perfect storm of increased demand, no significant increase in consultant numbers or trainees, chronically unfilled posts and a tsunami of expected retirements in the next three years means that we need a sustainable solution now for the sake of our patients. Patient safety is at risk.”
The Scottish Government announced last year its five-year £100 million cancer strategy.
This includes a £50 million investment in new radiology staff, training and equipment, Health Secretary Shona Robison has said.
Responding to the RCR, she added: “We’re committed to working closely with the NHS, including staff representatives like the Royal College of Radiologists, to ensure this investment sees the expected increase in the number of specialist radiotherapists working in our health service.”
Source: The Daily Telegraph