We heard this morning in the Reporting Scotland insert at 06:26am, when we’re all feeling a wee bit fragile:
‘There are warnings that a shortage of specialist cancer doctors to analyse scans is compromising patient safety in Scotland. A report by the Royal College of Radiologists published today found almost 80% of the clinical leads believed they did not have enough staff to run a safe and effective service.’
So, once more a single source from a partisan group, contrary to BBC guidelines for editors, with many research methods questions to be answered. What was the sample? Was it just an email to the whole of NHS Scotland with an utterly unreliable self-selecting sample? Was that 80% of all the clinical leads in Scotland or only 80% of the 10% who bothered responding? Were they asked a leading question?
Leaving these concerns for the moment, what else did Reporting Scotland’s team of researchers not provide that might have made this a better piece of journalism? Context? Here’s some:
Radiology workforce across UK:
Scotland has 8% of the population of the UK but almost 9% of the radiologists and almost 10% of the trainees.
Scotland is less reliant on migrant recruits because it trains and retains more staff (see below).
NHS Scotland outsources far less per head of population than the other parts of the UK because it doesn’t need to and because it is better staffed and better run. Wales and N Ireland have smaller populations yet spend more. England has 10 times the population yet spends 13 times as much.
More training and retention:
The number of radiologists working in Scotland’s hospitals has increased from 223.5 to 325.0 in the period 2006 to 2018 and the number training has gone up 20%. In addition, many current radiologists are expected to continue to be available to NHS Scotland, on a part-time basis, after retirement.
Are radiology consultants too busy with private work?
This will be unfair to some. I apologise to them. Evidence of this is unlikely to be easily established but Dr Giles Maskell, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said:
‘The NHS should be doctors’ top priority because “in no other healthcare system can a patient be so confident that a doctor’s advice will not be influenced by considerations of what the patient can afford or what the doctor will gain”. Radiologists do about £60m worth of private practice a year (£16 400 pa on average each), Maskell said. “Because the NHS has not trained or employed enough radiologists to keep up with demand, there has been rapid growth of outsourcing companies who mostly employ NHS consultant radiologists in their ‘spare time’ to report the backlogs of images which are building up waiting for reports.” “Clearly there are potential conflicts between NHS work and ’extra work’. A radiologist who is working long evenings for an outsourcing company might be fatigued and less productive in his or her daytime work for the NHS. As a college we have been very keen to emphasise the need for individuals to guard against this.”
Does the NHS not pay them enough?
‘As a trainee at specialty level you can earn between £36,461 and £46,208. Salaries for specialty doctors (staff grade) range from £37,923 to £70,718. The salary for newly qualified consultants starts at £76,761, rising to £103,490 for consultants with 10 to 19 years’ experience.’
Plus, on average, an extra £16 400 pa each! UK national average wage is £35 423 pa.