The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has warned radiology services across Scotland are in danger of failing beyond repair unless the country sources more home-grown imaging doctors.
The Herald newspaper recently investigated the amount of money hospitals were spending on outsourcing scans to external companies – both in the UK and abroad – in order to cover work building up due to Scotland’s shortage of consultant radiologists.
In a front page story on 21 May, The Herald revealed NHS Scotland figures stating nearly £4m was spent on scan outsourcing between 2017-18, as hospitals struggle to cope without enough radiologists on the ground1.
Official figures also show by the end of 2017, 14 per cent of Scottish radiology posts were unfilled2.
Frustratingly, this is not news to the RCR. The College has been campaigning on the dire need for more imaging doctors for years – both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK – particularly as imaging is so crucial to modern healthcare.
In a comment piece in today’s Herald, the RCR’s Scotland lead Dr Grant Baxter highlights Scotland’s historic underinvestment in radiology, as well as recent unsuccessful attempts to recruit radiologists from overseas.
While the RCR very much welcomed last year’s commitment by officials to fund more training posts, Dr Baxter has now called on the Scottish Government to at least double its funding pledge in order to provide “a Scottish radiologist workforce fit for the 21st century”.
“The [Scottish] Government has made a start to tap our best resource – home-grown trainee radiologists – promising us 10 extra trainees per year, with the first crop of extra trainee consultants going into training this summer.
“It’s a start, but it’s not enough. We need at least 25 extra trainees every year. The extra 10 doctors will barely cover expected retirements, never mind the posts currently sitting empty.
“We see four applicants for every trainee radiology job – surely [rather than outsourcing] it makes more sense to use this resource and train our own radiologists?”
Concluding with a intense appeal to Government for more trainee investment, Dr Baxter writes:
“As a country with a rich history in medicine it is sad that we seem unable to properly invest in our own talent. We know the Scottish Government and health secretary understand the situation – it is now imperative they be bold and expand on their promises for more trainees. If not, this healthcare crisis will be too late to reverse.”
2. ISD Scotland figures, as of 31 December 2017