Nearly half of cancer centres reported weekly delays in patients accessing treatment

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has published its 2023 clinical radiology and clinical oncology workforce census reports, which reveal dangerous shortages of doctors essential in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and other conditions including stroke.

The reports show growing delays for patients trying to access critical NHS services:  

  • Nearly half of cancer centres reported weekly delays in patients accessing treatment in 2023, with over 8 in 10 cancer leaders (85%) expressing concern that workforce shortages were impacting patient safety.
  • Almost all (97%) radiology leaders say that workforce shortages caused delays and backlogs.

These delays are the direct result of severe workforce shortages, due to demand for services outstripping consultant growth. Across the UK:  

  • There is a 30% shortfall of clinical radiology consultants (1,962 doctors). Without further action this shortfall is forecasted to increase to 40% (3,670 doctors) by 2028.  
  • In 2023, while the clinical radiology workforce grew by 6%, demand for CT and MRI reporting surged by 11%.     
  • There is a 15% shortfall of clinical oncology consultants (185 doctors). Without further action this shortfall is forecasted to increase to 21% (325 doctors) by 2028.   
  • In 2023, the number of chemotherapy appointments rose by 6-8% but the consultant workforce only grew by 3.5%. 

As a result of these shortfalls:

  • The NHS spent £276 million on outsourcing, insourcing and ad-hoc locums to manage excess reporting demand– the highest on record. We could fund 2,690 consultant salaries with this money, more than the original shortfall in professionals.
  • Patients are facing unacceptable delays in receiving a diagnosis and starting lifesaving treatments, putting better outcomes at risk.

RCR is calling for a three-point plan to address these dangerous workforce shortages; to recruit, train and retain clinical radiologists and clinical oncologists. This plan includes a series of targeted recommendations for the government and NHS in each nation to integrate into the next iteration of their workforce plan.  

To view the full report, visit: https://www.rcr.ac.uk/news-policy/policy-reports-initiatives/rcr-workforce-censuses/

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