Two reports published last week from The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) have made for a distressing read. One looked specifically at cancer care and the other at the clinical radiology workforce.

They warn that cancer patients face worsening NHS delays and the absolute horrific prospect of more gruelling treatment due to NHS staff shortages.

Indeed, a poll of all 60 directors of the UK’s cancer centres by The RCR found a staggering 95 per cent felt NHS staff shortages were leading to longer waiting times for appointments and delays in cancer treatment, including the prospect of more gruelling treatment.

The Independent reports that The RCR warns that NHS staff shortages mean people are waiting longer than necessary to start chemotherapy or radiotherapy, while some doctors are now having to make difficult decisions about who to prioritise for treatment. It was also stated that for every four-week delay to cancer treatment, the risk of death increased by around 10 per cent.

According to one head of service, breast cancer radiotherapy patients in their area had a seven to eight week wait to receive treatment. More alarmingly, the report stated staff shortages also meant costly medical devices, including machines for radiation, were forced to be switched off due to a lack of staff able to operate them.

As distressing as these reports were, the findings came as no shock to everyone at Prevent Breast Cancer. For several years now we have been forewarning our politicians about these problems, alongside other charities.

Over the years, demand for breast imaging has increased at a much faster rate than staffing numbers, placing very significant pressures on the breast imaging workforce. Almost 15% of breast radiologist and radiographic posts are vacant nationally, and by 2025, 38% of breast radiologists, 49% of breast clinicians and 40% of the doctors are expected to retire.

Due to a lack of radiologists, several breast centres across the country have closed, including Salford and Stockport within Greater Manchester. This has placed even greater pressures on the remaining units.

Furthermore, research undertaken by Breast Cancer Now estimates that there were 1.5 million fewer breast screenings in the UK as a result of the pandemic, and they estimated around 12,000 people in the UK could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer due to the impact of the pandemic on breast screening services.

Our Solution

Our number one priority is to build a National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA), which will be an extension of The Nightingale Centre and Prevent Breast Cancer Research Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital.

The NBIA is designed to provide a national solution to the breast imaging workforce crisis and is a collaborative project with input and support from all the breast training centres in England, as well as Health Education England.

We however need £3.9 million to make this building a reality!

Nikki Barraclough, Chief Executive of Prevent Breast Cancer, said:

Incidence of breast cancer has continued to rise across the UK, and in the last 10 years, GP referrals to breast units have doubled. The severe workforce shortages within breast imaging, combined with the closing of breast centres and inadequate training facilities are facts that cannot be ignored.

The devastating impact on cancer patients already occurring within the NHS will only get worse.

The NBIA will deliver the space and cutting-edge facilities to train a sustainable workforce, enable an extra 13,000 patients to be seen each year and provide additional capacity for research into breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Quite frankly, without intervention, we’re sitting on a time-bomb, and people will lose their lives. We must act now.

From Virtual To A Reality

The NBIA training programme has been running virtually since 2016, already benefitting 56 hospital trusts across England. However, the service pressures mean that identifying training space (mammography and ultrasound rooms) for trainees is becoming increasingly difficult.

The NBIA Building Will Further Facilitate:

– High-quality, pioneering, and cost-effective training. An independent economic evaluation has predicted the project to save the NHS £50 million over a 10-year period.
– The creation of job opportunities, from apprenticeships through to radiologists, levelling up access to imaging careers.
– A sustainable workforce to meet current and future needs and ensure that thousands more women are able to get a quicker diagnosis, and subsequently saving many lives.

How You Can Get Involved

We invite you to be part of this journey and register your details to receive updates on our progress and information on opportunities to support this campaign.

Together, we will Build to Beat Breast Cancer.

Published On: June 20th, 2023 /

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About Prevent Breast Cancer

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease. Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email us today.