Cancer patients receiving just about ‘adequate’ radiotherapy treatment, says new IPEM report

CANCER patients are receiving a just about ‘adequate’ service for their radiotherapy treatment but there is little room for training new staff or implementing the latest treatment technologies to improve care, according to a new report.

There is also a struggle to recruit Clinical Technologists and there is often difficulties in finding maternity and sick cover, leaving services strained.

The findings are reported in IPEM’s Radiotherapy Workforce Census Summary Report 2021, which adds there is an urgent need to address the training and workforce shortage issues that have been highlighted.

Overall, there is a vacancy rate in the radiotherapy workforce of eight per cent, with the greatest number of vacancies at entry level.

As well as the struggle to recruit Clinical Technologists, the profession is also becoming an ageing workforce, with almost half (48%) being over the age of 50, and there is an urgent need to address the low numbers of people entering the profession.

The census found the largest shortfall of staff was among Clinical Technologists in engineering, an area which needs to be addressed via improved training routes.

An uplift of around 27% in Clinical Technologist staffing levels is required to meet what IPEM recommends is needed to run a comprehensive radiotherapy service.

Matter of urgency

Matt Dunn, IPEM’s Vice President Medical Physics, said: ‘At present, cancer patients are just about receiving an ‘adequate’ service for radiotherapy treatment. However, post-Covid, the services are coming increasing pressure and this may change.

‘What must be addressed, as a matter of urgency, are the training and workforce shortage issues that have been highlighted, and training routes need to be increased across the board.

‘In addition, the struggle to recruit new Clinical Technologists must be addressed, especially given the ageing workforce in this area. We need action to be taken to address these issues in order to meet what IPEM recommends is required to run a comprehensive radiotherapy service.’

Read the IPEM Radiotherapy Workforce Census Summary Report 2021