Policy priorities for clinical radiology

Clinical radiologists use medical imaging techniques to investigate, diagnose and monitor diseases and injuries. Interventional radiologists use image-guided techniques to carry out minimally invasive procedures that improve patient experience, reduce hospital stays and save lives. 

Diagnostic and interventional radiology (IR) services have been under considerable strain for many years. Demand outweighs capacity in most departments which poses a real threat to patient safety and costs the NHS millions per year in outsourcing, delayed diagnoses and poorer patient outcomes. The workforce needs considerable investment over the coming five years if this situation is to be improved. 

Future developments such as community diagnostic centres (CDCs), rapid diagnostic centres (RDCs), integrated imaging networks and adoption of innovative digital technologies are supported by the RCR as effective methods of streamlining pathways and maximising the extant workforce. However, the efficacy of these relies on equipment, a robust and well-resourced information technology (IT) infrastructure and sufficient staff, both clinical and non-clinical.

2020 saw many positive developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – rapid acilitation of home reporting of images, a national impetus for community diagnostic centres that act as a one-stop shop for patients in a COVID-minimal environment and a greater appreciation of interventional radiology as a non-invasive alternative to open surgery. These developments must be built upon and sustained. 

Being either an enabler or a rate limiting step for the entire health system, imaging and IR services are essential to meeting NHS Long Term plan national ambitions, especially for cancer, stroke and, in the shorter term, recovery in the era of COVID-19.

Enabling radiology to provide the best possible service will be achieved through:

1. Maximising the workforce

  • Increase training places and capacity to train 
  • Facilitate and encourage skillmix
  • Enable overseas recruitment
  • Enhance the working environment

2. Providing the tools necessary for optimum patient care

  • Rolling, funded equipment replacement
  • Fund and support a robust, connected information technology (IT) infrastructure across the NHS
  • Continued review of the NHS Payment Scheme (formerly named the tariff system)

3. Supporting and nurturing new ways of working

  • Considered and effective roll-out of the RDCs and CDCs
  • Supported integrated imaging networks
  • Enable clinical use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

Policy priorities for clinical radiology 2021–2026 report

This report identifies and contextualises priorities for clinical radiology and how to make them a reality. All of the priorities are interdependent and equally critical if we are to achieve a clinical radiology service that can provide the best possible treatment and outcomes for people with cancer. 

Download the full report (PDF)