Cautious welcome to new Health Secretary
HEALTH may take more of a centre stage under new Prime Minister Liz Truss who has said it is one of her top three priorities.
At the same time, though, the new Health and Social Care Secretary has an overflowing inbox of issues to deal with – including the workforce shortage crisis in healthcare science.
Thérèse Coffey MP, who is the third Health and Social Care Secretary this year, has her own personal mantra of ‘ABCD’ - ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentistry – but has not so far talked about workforce shortages across the NHS in general, or within healthcare science in particular.
IPEM recently supported a Radiotherapy UK flash workforce survey of everyone working in radiotherapy. This followed on from a letter sent to Ms Coffey’s predecessor Sajid Javid by 34 Heads of Radiotherapy Physics departments which said a ‘crisis point’ had been reached in treating cancer patients due a lack of investment and a workforce ‘on its knees’.
Heads of Radiotherapy Physics letter
The letter stated radiotherapy had been ‘systematically overlooked, marginalised and monumentally underfunded in the UK [and] is at a crisis point. The consequences of successive governments failing to harness and fund radiotherapy is devastating for patients’.
The main points raised by the letter echo the findings reported by IPEM over a period of several years, and which were highlighted in two recent reports:
- Shortages in the Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering (MPCE) workforce, with staffing in radiotherapy centres being barely ‘adequate’
- Little room for training new staff or implementing the latest treatment technologies to improve care
- A struggle to recruit clinical technologists and difficulties in finding maternity and sick cover, leaving services strained, which has become even more critical due to staff absences caused by Covid
- The Diagnostic Radiology and Radiation Protection workforce being at less than half the level recommended by established staffing models
- A need for capital investment in ageing linear accelerators
Phil Morgan, IPEM’s Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘Thérèse Coffey must urgently address workforce shortages in healthcare science, and in medical physics and clinical engineering in particular.
‘Unless the Government is prepared to tackle the lack of investment and inadequate numbers of training places in healthcare science they will not make inroads into the backlogs, particularly in cancer diagnosis and treatment. We urgently need investment in people and equipment.’