The UK is facing a critical shortage of healthcare scientists, engineers, and technologists in the field of medical physics and clinical engineering (MPCE), which is hindering the delivery of essential services that underpin the National Health Service (NHS).
The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) has released a statement addressing the current workforce deficits and recruitment challenges in MPCE, calling for immediate action to combat the issues faced by the sector.
The statement highlights the need for specific measures to alleviate the “perfect storm” impacting the workforce, including increased funding and expansion of MPCE training opportunities. Additionally, the statement suggests the inclusion of “Clinical Scientist” and “Clinical Technologist” role titles on the National Shortage Occupation List and the urgent inclusion of Clinical Engineers as an eligible occupation under the Health and Care Worker Visa.
Dr. Robert Farley, President of IPEM, emphasises the urgent need for action, stating that without intervention, the decline in the MPCE workforce will lead to detrimental effects on patient care, including missed or delayed diagnoses, unsafe equipment, and long waiting lists for treatments.
The MPCE workforce, often overlooked, plays a crucial role in ensuring patient safety in hospitals. They work closely with doctors and radiographers to mitigate potential hazards, particularly in areas such as radiation safety. MPCE staff contribute to over 45% of all patient treatments within NHS hospitals, working in diagnostics, radiotherapy, and medical imaging to ensure accurate diagnoses and safe treatments.
The workforce shortage in MPCE requires immediate attention to prevent adverse impacts on patient care. The IPEM statement calls for increased funding and training capacity within NHS Trusts, promotion of all available training routes, and recognition of MPCE roles on the National Shortage Occupation List and the Health and Care Worker Visa.
Dr. Anna Barnes, President-Elect of IPEM, emphasises the crucial role of the MPCE workforce in delivering effective healthcare and highlights the challenges faced in critical care and intensive care units where the work of clinical engineers is vital.
IPEM’s Workforce Intelligence Unit has consistently highlighted the under-resourcing of the MPCE workforce since 2013. The unit has developed workforce models to guide the establishment of a safe and effective workforce, revealing significant shortfalls in several areas and emphasising the need for increased funding.
The ageing population and expanding healthcare services further underscore the urgency of addressing the MPCE workforce shortage. Matt Dunn, Vice-President for Medical Physics at IPEM, emphasises that without an adequate number of scientists and technologists, the NHS’s ability to conduct diagnostics safely and provide timely treatment will be severely compromised.
Addressing the shortage in the MPCE workforce requires a comprehensive, fully-funded, and long-term plan to ensure the delivery of high-quality healthcare services to meet the increasing demand of an ageing population.