Hospital Dr News

Shortage of interventional radiologists compromising quality of NHS care, says college

An NHS-wide lack of interventional radiologists means that some patients are having to undergo major operations because they cannot access the minimally invasive help they need.

The Royal College of Radiologists says interventional radiology is understaffed by at least 44%, or 320 doctors.

The latest figures show there are now 414 interventional radiologists practising in England, however, a 2012 review said the NHS needed approximately 735 interventional radiologists to provide a proper on-call service in England alone.

The NHS is planning to roll out life-transforming mechanical thrombectomy treatment to stroke patients in England, for example.

However, specialist centres need at least 50 additional interventional neuroradiologists to provide an adequate 24/7 service.

England’s trauma centre network has made a positive impact on emergency patient care, however, service changes and radiologist shortages mean most still cannot provide a senior emergency radiologist on-site 24/7.

The RCR, the British Society of Interventional Radiology and the British Society of Emergency Radiology are calling on the Government to fund more radiologist training places and support the professional development of trauma-dedicated and interventional radiologists.

Dr Raman Uberoi, past-president of the British Society of Interventional Radiology, said: “Interventional radiology techniques give a minimally invasive alternative to many types of traditional surgery.

“This image-guided ‘pinhole surgery’ is safer, speedier and results in a much quicker patient discharge from hospital, however, there is still a desperate need for hundreds more interventional radiologists across the UK in order to provide a safe, comprehensive 24/7 service.”

Dr Elizabeth Dick, president of the British Society of Emergency Radiology, and a trauma radiologist based at London’s St Mary’s Hospital, commented: “In a trauma situation, imaging is vital – it’s the radiologist’s job to identify every serious injury and prioritise what has to be done right now – it’s up to us to determine which part of the body is suffering a massive life-threatening bleed and which isn’t.

“But the reality is that there are not enough expert trauma radiologists. In many major trauma centres, out-of-hours care is delivered by trainees because there aren’t enough fully qualified consultant imaging doctors to work round-the-clock.

“These registrar radiologists deliver a brilliant service but patients deserve the same level of senior doctor care, delivered by fully trained trauma specialist radiologists, whatever time or whatever day of the week they come into hospital.”

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