MRI services in desperate need of scientific support staff, says new report


MRI services are in desperate need of more scientific support staff to meet current and future demand, a new survey has found.

The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine’s (IPEM) Magnetic Resonance (MR) Physics Workforce Survey was conducted amongst groups who provide this support across the UK.

The survey, carried out amongst MR Physics groups (and others) across the UK, revealed a workforce which, whilst small in comparison to other medical physics and clinical engineering (MPCE) specialisms, has a higher-than-average vacancy rate of 12 per cent, rising to between 13-14 per cent for certain NHS pay bands.

It revealed the workforce needs to increase by 45 per cent just to meet current demand, and by more than double that to meet anticipated demand in three years’ time.

Identify workforce gap

The aim of the survey was to identify the extent of the workforce gap and to gather information to determine the current and future needs using a workforce model developed by IPEM’s MR Physics Workforce Task and Finish Group, which provides IPEM recommended staffing levels for the service.

The model estimated the current MR Physics Clinical Scientist workforce needs to increase by 45 per cent, which equates to more than 54 posts now, increasing to an additional 118 posts to meet demand in three years’ time.

This survey comes hot on the heels of IPEM’s recently released statement on the current workforce shortfalls and recruitment outlook within the wider MPCE community, which called for urgent action to be taken to address the shortages in this crucial part of the healthcare system.

Critical workforce issues

There was widespread disappointment that the long-anticipated NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, published just before the NHS celebrated its 75th birthday, offered little to tackle the critical workforce issues in MPCE. 

Dr Angela Darekar, who chaired the MR Physics Workforce Task and Finish Group, said: ‘The workforce model we have developed and the subsequent survey has provided strong evidence that MR Physics is a stretched specialism within MPCE and needs to grow significantly to meet demand from expanding and increasingly complex clinical MRI services.

‘The investment in new MRI scanners by NHS England, the introduction of new techniques/software and the increase in research demand within the NHS are all driving this need. We need to ensure we are attracting STP trainees to this specialism, as well as encouraging and enabling those from other routes, such as academia, to join. We also need to ensure that the need for MR Physics support is visible and resourced when the planning new MRI services.’

Magnetic Resonance Workforce Survey
IPEM statement on the medical physics and clinical engineering workforce