Today’s announcement by the Minister for Health, Eluned Morgan MS, that over £51 million is being invested by the Welsh Government to replace aging diagnostic equipment is a welcome development. It arrives on the back of earlier announcements this year to provide £25m to replace the highest priority equipment and £25m to develop PET-CT imaging services across Wales.
These investments, paying for the upgrading of vital diagnostic technology and equipment, as well as paying for any associated works needed to be undertaken to house the equipment should improve the waiting times of people having to undertake diagnostic tests and experiencing the anxiety associated with a potential cancer diagnosis. Post pandemic lockdown, as more and more people approach their GP with cancer concerns, GP referrals for diagnostic tests has increased compounding waits.
We welcome the news that this funding has been bought forward, in recognition of potential supply chain issues caused by soaring global demand for diagnostic equipment. We hope that by taking this action people will experience the benefits of the future-proof equipment sooner.
In parallel to the supply chain issues, issues concerning the workforce operating the imaging equipment and making a diagnosis need attention. The demands of the pandemic has led to cuts to protected time normally available for professional development and training. At Cancer Research Wales we want reassurance that time is made available to fully train the workforce to use this new, modern equipment – making full use of the new technology’s speed and accuracy.
In our recent submission to the Senedd’s Health Committee we also refer the steps that need to be taken now to respond to rising demand for diagnostic services, especially within the radiology speciality. Wales cannot rely or wait for more new recruits to join the NHS, steps need to be taken to upskill the existing workforce. At Cancer Research Wales we would like to see a programme of work focussed on radiology to upskill medical physicists and radiographers to undertake some of the routine diagnostic work, where a differential diagnosis is not needed. While this approach is no substitute for increasing the workforce in these key areas of the diagnostic pathway, it’s more responsive, adaptable and altogether “smarter”.
We are aware that radiographers in some Health Boards in Wales report on routine non-cancer scans, while radiographers in other Health Boards are not permitted. A once for Wales approach for radiographer reporting will ensure greater equity across Wales, create exciting opportunities for ambitious radiographers through expansion of job roles, and relieve existing consultant radiologists to deal with the more complex cases.
A 21st century workforce for 21st century equipment.