Thousands of scans cancelled as a result of radiographer strike – figures

Radiographers carry out X-rays, MRI and CT scans, ultrasounds and breast screening, as well as radiotherapy for cancer patients.

Ella Pickover
Monday 31 July 2023 19:49 BST
Members of the Society of Radiographers walked out for 48 hours in their ongoing dispute with the Government over pay (PA)
Members of the Society of Radiographers walked out for 48 hours in their ongoing dispute with the Government over pay (PA)

Thousands of X-rays, MRI and CT scans and ultrasounds were postponed as a result of strikes by radiographers, new figures show.

Some 13,169 inpatient and outpatient appointments had to be rescheduled as a result of the 48-hour strike that took place on July 25 and 26.

A further 20 mental health, learning disability and community hospital appointments were rescheduled – meaning a total of 13,189 appointments did not take place, according to NHS England figures.

Radiographers walked out at 37 NHS Trusts in England in dispute over the Government’s pay deal for staff on the Agenda for Change contract.

The Society of Radiographers (SoR) said worrying numbers of staff are leaving the profession and not enough is being done to recruit more workers.

Members of the union voted to reject the Government’s 5% pay award and called for talks to reopen, but ministers have insisted that the pay deal is the final offer.

The SoR said nine out of 10 NHS hospital patients are supported by radiographers, who carry out X-rays, MRI and CT scans, ultrasounds and breast screening, as well as radiotherapy for cancer patients.

Every strike means countless patients are not booked in for appointments during strike days while many more face having their appointments rescheduled as the knock-on effects of walkouts are felt for months afterwards

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers

The number of inpatient and outpatient hospital appointments cancelled since the current spell of industrial action in the NHS began in December now stands at 778,127.

Together with cancellations in mental health, learning disability and community settings, the overall cumulative total is 833,419.

The figures are likely to underestimate the true scale of disruption as not all NHS trusts were able to supply data for publication by NHS England.

Commenting on the latest figures, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “As expected, last week’s two-day strike by radiographers caused further disruption for patients with over 13,000 operations, appointments and procedures delayed.

“More than 835,000 appointments have now had to be rescheduled due to strike action across hospital, ambulance, mental health and community services since December.

“With further strikes by junior doctors and consultants planned for the coming weeks – and potentially by radiographers too- tens of thousands more patients will see their care pushed back.

“But this is just one part of the picture.

“Every strike means countless patients are not booked in for appointments during strike days while many more face having their appointments rescheduled as the knock-on effects of walkouts are felt for months afterwards.

What is clear to any health leaders is that these strikes are crippling the NHS and adding considerably to the waiting lists at a time when its services should otherwise be committed to using the pre-winter period to recover as much as possible

Rory Deighton, NHS Confederation

“Trust leaders understand the strength of feeling among striking staff and the impact eight back-to-back months of industrial action is having on already low morale and efforts to cut waiting lists.

“They are doing everything they can to minimise disruption, but each wave of strikes comes with significant human and financial cost.“The government and unions must find a way to avert more strikes.”

Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s acute network, said: “This data does not get across the full impact of the disruption caused by the radiographers’ strikes.

“A number of trusts were not able to return their submissions on time and, added to that, services are now increasingly being more cautious about how many procedures and appointments they schedule in for strike days where they expect to be severely prevented from running a normal service.

“This is because they want to avoid last-minute cancellations as they know how distressing these can be for their patients.

“While fewer NHS trusts were directly affected by this round of radiographers’ strikes, in comparison to the more wide-reaching walkouts from consultants and from junior doctors, the disruption to outpatients’ appointments at a hospital level is still significant.

“What is clear to any health leaders is that these strikes are crippling the NHS and adding considerably to the waiting lists at a time when its services should otherwise be committed to using the pre-winter period to recover as much as possible.”

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