New £3.4m Welsh imaging academy officially launched

Monday 11 February 2019

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) is delighted to be present at today's official launch of Wales’ first dedicated teaching academy for radiologists.

While we very much welcome the new National Imaging Academy Wales and its potential to tackle radiologist workforce shortages, the RCR has also cautioned that the £3.4m facility risks being squandered if it is not run at capacity.    

The academy, based in Pencoed, will enable more trainee radiologists to be taught scan reading skills in a classroom setting, using state-of-the-art imaging workstations. Until now, trainee throughput in Wales has been limited by space on hospital-based training schemes and the availability of busy consultants.

As well as being used for teaching, the equipment at the academy will also mean radiologists can look at scans from hospitals all over the country, speeding up results for patients.

The opening of the academy comes as the country faces an ongoing shortage of qualified radiologists.

Hospitals are seeing demand for complex imaging scans spiral, however, there are only seven more full-time consultant radiologists in Wales than there were in 2012 (149 full-time equivalent consultants in 2017, compared to 142 in 2012).

Dr Toby Wells, Secretary of the RCR’s Standing Welsh Committee and lead for radiology in Wales, said:

“Medical imaging and the expertise of radiologists is essential to almost every patient journey. For example, quick scan results are absolutely vital for early cancer diagnosis.

“But while demand for complex diagnostic scans is spiralling, the number of Welsh radiologists available to interpret them has not kept up. The new academy model means we will be able to start tackling the country’s critical shortage of radiologists, and train the next generation on the newest technology.”   

There are 14 first-year trainees being taught at the imaging academy (one of whom is half-time), with an expected qualification date of 2022-23. However, the academy has capacity to teach 20 trainees, with the potential to expand.

The RCR is now calling on the Welsh Government to do justice to the new teaching centre and fund 20 new radiologist training posts every year, in order to keep up with demand on the health service.

Dr Wells continued:

“The new National Imaging Academy gives us the teaching expertise and state-of-the-art imaging equipment to teach the next generation of radiologists that the nation so desperately needs.

“However, in order to see the benefits of the Welsh Government’s substantial investment in the academy we need a sustained investment in trainees – starting now. Without them it‘s just a building.

“If we can realise the potential of the academy and train more radiologists it will lead to huge benefits to patients across Wales – we’ll have reduced waiting times for scan results, better access to specialist and subspecialist expertise and be able to cut hospitals’ use of expensive outsourcing companies.”

RCR President Dr Nicola Strickland said:

“It is brilliant to see the centre officially open, following years of hard work by a committed team of radiologist trainers and official supporters. The academy teaching model has worked well in England, and the new Welsh academy is a fantastic teaching facility.

“I am delighted to have attended the official opening of the National Imaging Academy today. It has also been an absolute pleasure to meet the academy’s first year trainees, who, as the future of diagnostic imaging expertise in the Welsh NHS, will benefit from the very best concentrated teaching and equipment.

“Now we have to ensure we get the most out of it, which means government ensuring it is training as many new consultants as possible.”