RCR calls for sustainable investment in imaging and cancer services in Spending Review 2021

Friday 1 October 2021

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has submitted a spending review representation (PDF) to the Treasury, urging Government to invest in a robust and sustainable future for NHS imaging and cancer care.

Our submission outlines the vital role played by the RCR’s two medical specialties – with radiology services providing fast patient diagnoses and minimally-invasive surgery and clinical oncology delivering highly effective non-surgical cancer treatment. Chronic underinvestment meant these services were stretched before the arrival of coronavirus, and we are asking the Treasury to prioritise three vital resourcing needs over the next three years.

The submission calls for:

  • A properly staffed imaging and cancer workforce: which will require the continuation of recent uplifts in radiologist and clinical oncologist training places, as well as expansion of the wider imaging and cancer team workforce
  • Imaging and cancer machines and NHS IT that is fit for purpose: via a rolling replacement programme for radiotherapy equipment and delivering on promised scanner upgrades, alongside crucial funding for digital infrastructure improvements
  • Widespread adoption of new ways of working: meaning adequate, ongoing investment in robust clinical networks across imaging and radiotherapy and funding for rapid and community-based diagnostic pathways

The RCR’s paper also calls on the Treasury to finance the staff support and retention schemes outlined in last year’s instalment of the NHS People Plan (PDF), and to continue to invest in artificial intelligence under development in the RCR’s specialty areas.

RCR President Dr Jeanette Dickson said:

“The Government has recently promised investment in extra scanners and cancer pathway improvements as part of elective recovery funding for the NHS. This would get imaging and cancer services moving in the right direction, but to see real improvement we will need to see heavier investment over the course of the three-year spending review, and beyond.

“Crucially, new machines and delivery models will only work if services have enough staff. Without major investment to train the extra radiologists and clinical oncologists we need, it is inevitable that patients will continue to face long, anxious waits for scans, diagnoses and treatment.

“If the Government really is serious about catching up with the coronavirus backlog, speeding up cancer diagnosis and streamlining patient care then the Chancellor must commit to investing in a long-term future for NHS radiology and cancer services.”

Alongside our direct address to the Treasury, the RCR has launched a new workforce campaign with guidance and templates available to help members, supporters and healthcare partners raise the issue with MPs and amplify our calls for vital workforce investment.