Crucial funding needed to tackle workforce shortages

CRUCIAL funding is urgently needed in the medical physics and clinical engineering workforce as it is approaching the point of being unable to deliver the safe and effective services underpinning the NHS, according to IPEM.

The Institute has published a statement on the current workforce shortfalls within medical physics and clinical engineering (MPCE) and calls for action to be taken to combat the challenges being experienced by the workforce.

In a letter to Angela Douglas, Deputy Chief Scientific Officer for NHS England, and Helen Ross, Workforce Programme Lead, Dr Robert Farley, IPEM’s President, says lack of funding, a drop in the number of training places and a previous reliance on staff from overseas reflects the failure to plan and develop the workforce from within the UK.

‘Failure to plan’

Dr Farley states: ‘Clinical Scientists, technologists and engineers are a subgroup of the Healthcare Science workforce and play vital roles in the delivery of modern healthcare. For the last 10 years, it has been clear this workforce is approaching the point of being unable to deliver the safe and effective services underpinning our NHS.

‘Training numbers have consistently failed to keep pace with workforce turnover and the difficulty in meeting statutory Medical Physics Expert (MPE) requirements illustrates the significant challenges relating to career progression within MPCE.

‘Previous attempts to boost recruitment by attracting staff from overseas reflect the failure to plan and develop the workforce from within the UK.’

In the letter, Dr Farley says IPEM’s Workforce Intelligence Unit (WIU) has routinely surveyed and evaluated information relating to staffing levels within the MPCE workforce since 2013. From this, the WIU and IPEM volunteers have developed workforce models for multiple specialisms within MPCE to provide guidance outlining the essential requirements for a safe and effective workforce. These models have been critical in determining the established workforce shortfall in several areas of MPCE and have emphasised the need for further funding dedicated to increasing the workforce establishment.

‘Swift and decisive action’

He said in IPEM’s view, the primary solution to redress the workforce shortage is to increase the amount of funding available and expand the number of MPCE training posts. In addition, funding should be made available to enable development of workforce skills to reach a safe establishment of experienced staff and certified Medical Physics Experts to ensure the workforce has a proficient and sustainable skill mix.

Dr Farley concluded: ‘Without swift and decisive action, the MPCE workforce will continue to decline. This will undoubtedly affect crucial aspects of patient care, with the potential to lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, unsafe equipment and long waiting lists for treatments/interventions.

‘There is a huge depth of concern among the MPCE workforce about the current state of their position within Healthcare Science. While we are all grateful for the significant increase in the number of places on the Scientist Training Programme, it is still not sufficient to address the workforce shortfall, and does nothing to help addresses shortages in the clinical technologist workforce.’

MPCE workforce statement April 2023