Shortage of NHS radiographers causing diagnostic delays for patients

The effects of a delayed diagnosis can be devastating resulting in both mental and physical trauma, and sometimes, tragically even death.

A recent BBC investigation has found that there are ‘bottlenecks’ in diagnostic services within the NHS, which are impacting on patient care, and thousands of people are waiting weeks, and sometimes months, to get a diagnosis of their symptoms. Through a freedom of information request, the BBC has found that these delays are frequently happening due to a shortage of radiographers.

These key medical workers perform scans and ultrasounds which can detect problems leading to heart disease, multiple sclerosis and tumors.

We also recently reported on the shortage of histopathologists, so there is currently a shortage of clinicians in the whole diagnostic area.

The NHS has a target for patients to be seen within six weeks or receiving a referral, but according to the BBC, In England nearly 29,000 people in the last year have had to wait longer than that, with one in seven having had to wait over three months.

It is particularly poignant at this time as it is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and Lung Cancer Awareness month.
Both of these terrible diseases can be deadly if not caught early and treated quickly.

Pancreatic cancer is the 5th biggest cancer killer in the UK and yet most people don’t know the symptoms. The diseases can therefore be quite advanced before a patient visits a GP or gets a referral. The delays caused by the bottleneck at diagnosis stage could mean that a patient has a severely reduced chance of survival because of the delay.

Lung cancer usually doesn’t show many signs until it is quite advanced, by which time, further delays in treatment can have a major impact on the likelihood of survival. According to Cancer Research UK, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths (2016 data), with 21% of all cancer related deaths being attributed to it.

These are just two examples of where delays in diagnosis can have a major impact on the lives of patients, but of course, there are so many more illness for which the same can be said.

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