Radiographers across Yorkshire have joined colleagues from across the country in taking the bold step of going on strike for 48 hours. The industrial action started at 8am today, with the aim of addressing the pressing issues of recruitment and retention that have plagued the profession. With one million patients languishing on NHS waiting lists, the strike aims to draw attention to the urgent need for improvements in pay and working conditions for radiographers.
This article delves into the challenges faced by radiography professionals, the impact on patient care, and the demands being made by the striking members.
The critical role of radiographers
Radiographers play a vital role in the healthcare system, with nine out of ten NHS patients relying on their expertise. They perform crucial tasks, including X-rays, MRI and CT scans, ultrasounds, breast screening, and providing radiotherapy for cancer patients. However, the profession is grappling with a severe shortage of skilled radiographers, leading to the current backlog of a million patients waiting for radiological assessments. This backlog often means delayed diagnosis and treatment, which can be critical in some cases.
Melissa, a dedicated radiographer working in a Sheffield hospital, sheds light on the dire situation faced by the profession:
“Everyone in my team is so dedicated to putting patients first. We’re often cancelling plans at weekends and shifting plans around.
“Some days, there’s only six or seven of us to cover X-rays, fluoroscopy, outpatients, theatre, CT. If you have three members of staff in theatre, the CT running, fluoroscopy running, that leaves only two people to cover everything else. You don’t have time to spend with your patients, because you know there are patients outside who’ve been waiting for an hour.”
Melissa’s testimony highlights the profound impact this crisis has on the personal lives of radiographers. The long hours and increasing responsibilities have led to missed family events, disrupted family time, and a constant struggle to find a balance between work and home life. These challenges not only affect their wellbeing but also take a toll on patient care.
Decision to strike
The dedication and passion radiographers exhibit often go unrewarded financially, as many find themselves struggling to make ends meet despite working long hours. Young professionals in their 30s find themselves still living with their parents due to financial constraints, while others, like single mothers, cannot afford basic luxuries like a week’s holiday for their children.
The combination of low pay and long working hours has pushed some radiographers to consider leaving the public sector in search of better opportunities. This alarming attrition rate in the profession further exacerbates the staffing crisis, deepening the burden on the remaining workforce.
Taking the drastic step of going on strike was not an easy decision for the radiographers. They deeply care about their patients’ safety and wellbeing, and the strike is more than just a demand for increased pay. It is a call for action to attract more people to the profession, improve training, and ensure a positive impact on patient care.
Dean Rogers, executive director of industrial strategy and member relations for the Society of Radiographers, emphasises the urgent need for the government to prioritise the recruitment and retention of radiography professionals. He said:
“We need to draw attention to the fact that many radiography professionals are feeling burnt out by low pay and increased hours. They’re leaving the NHS, and they are not being replaced in adequate numbers.
“If the government wants to reduce NHS waiting lists and ensure that patients receive the treatment they need, when they need it, then it must urgently prioritise the recruitment and retention of radiography professionals – and that means talking to us about pay and conditions. But they are refusing to talk to us, even though our door is open.
“Our members deserve better. Our patients deserve better.”
A wake-up call
The strike action taken by radiographers in Yorkshire serves as a wake-up call to address the chronic staff shortages and the resulting impact on patient care. These dedicated professionals are calling for urgent improvements in pay, working conditions, and recruitment strategies. Addressing these demands will not only alleviate the burden on radiographers but also ensure better and more timely care for patients.
To secure a sustainable future for radiography and the NHS as a whole, it is essential for the government and healthcare authorities to engage in constructive dialogue with the Society of Radiographers. Only by acknowledging and resolving these pressing issues can we ensure a resilient and thriving healthcare system that truly prioritises the wellbeing of both patients and healthcare professionals alike.
Article based on press release from the Society of Radiographers, with a little help from ChatGPT