28 April 2021

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) latest Clinical Radiology UK Workforce Census 2020 Report reveals the significant challenges facing the breast radiologist workforce, with new figures highlighting:

  • Breast radiology is the second biggest radiology consultant specialist area
  • In terms of vacancies, it is the most​ in demand area (41 vacant breast radiologist positions across the UK)
  • Despite demand, breast radiology has minimal growth - breast radiologist numbers are growing, but only at 1% p.a. (average workforce growth is 4%)
  • A quarter of breast radiologists (24%) are due to retire in the next five years

In response, Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now said:

“Today’s census paints a bleak picture of vast shortages in breast radiologists across the UK at a time when a fully resourced imaging and diagnostic workforce is needed more than ever; the already over-stretched NHS is facing unparalleled pressures due to the pandemic, and a frightening consequence is that some women with breast cancer may not receive an early diagnosis which is critical to their chances of survival.

“Existing shortages in the workforce, paired with a quarter (24%) of breast radiologists being due to retire in the next five years, puts the continuation of prompt diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in jeopardy.

“It’s therefore vital that UK Governments tackle the huge crisis facing the cancer workforce now, investing in a robust, long-term, and fully resourced plan that supports the expansion and retainment of the radiology workforce, filling current vacancies with our experts of the future. This is vital to equipping the NHS, which is already working tirelessly, to tackle and recover breast screening backlogs, combined with more patients coming through the system as a result of the estimated 11,000 missing breast cancer diagnoses.1 Only then will everyone with breast cancer get the best possible chance of early diagnosis.

“We urge women to contact their GP if they find any new or unusual breast changes, as while most changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions that it is, the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of treatment being successful. COVID-19 infection safety measures are in place for appointments. Anyone seeking information and support can speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”


Notes to Editors

1 Calculated using a combination of data sets: the number of people starting their first treatment for breast cancer under the 31 day wait between March and December 2020 (compared to data from the same months in 2019) in England and Scotland; and based on urgent referrals and screening data in Wales and Northern Ireland. The number fewer breast cancer diagnoses between March and December 2020 breaks down across the UK as follows - England – 8900; Scotland – 890; Wales – 687; Northern Ireland – 248.