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Budget 2021: Extra NHS funding welcomed but staff shortages need to be addressed

AN extra £5.9bn for the NHS in England has been announced by the government – but a 'perfect storm' of staff shortages needs to be addressed, according to IPEM.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the extra funding ahead of Budget Day, which included £2.3bn to fund more diagnostic tests like CT, MRI and ultrasound scans, and support the opening of more Community Diagnostic Centres.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, who was commissioned to review diagnostic services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, said in his report to NHS England and NHS Improvement that any new services such as these would require significant investment in facilities, equipment and workforce alongside replacing outdated machines.

Dr Robert Farley, IPEM’s President, said while the extra funding from the government was welcome, it does not address the staff shortages in the Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering (MPCE) workforce who are needed to support such equipment.

‘Buying new machines is much easier than training, recruiting and retaining staff,’ said Dr Farley.

‘There is an expectation that services will need to expand to meet future demand. Staff shortages need urgent attention, and longer-term investment in training new staff must be made to ensure services are better prepared to manage future workload and pressures.’

Workforce shortages

He added: ‘Across all specialisms within the MPCE workforce there is a vacancy rate of between 9% and 11%, with some areas having even greater vacancy rates than this. This has led to all scientist and technologist specialisms being listed on the National Shortage Occupation List.

‘There is a workforce shortage within the radiation safety and diagnostic radiology specialism, which provides advice and perform measurements to ensure the ionising radiation required for many of these diagnostic scans is used safely.

‘We face a shortage in this area due to a perfect storm of insufficient people being trained and an impending retirement timebomb. We would urge an increase in the workforce by funding the 10 to 20 per cent increase in the professionals needed to run the service.’

Community Diagnostic Centres