The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) has issued a statement highlighting the urgent need for action to address the workforce shortage in medical physics and clinical engineering (MPCE) in the UK. The statement emphasises the critical role of healthcare scientists, engineers, and technologists in delivering essential services that support the functioning of the National Health Service (NHS).
The statement points out several challenges contributing to the workforce shortage, including a lack of funding, a decrease in available training places, and the previous reliance on overseas staff. To tackle these issues, IPEM calls for increased funding and an expansion of MPCE training posts. It also suggests including specific role titles, such as “Clinical Scientist” and “Clinical Technologist,” on the National Shortage Occupation List and making Clinical Engineers eligible for the Health and Care Worker Visa.
Dr Robert Farley, President of IPEM, stresses the need for swift action to prevent a decline in the MPCE workforce, which could have detrimental effects on patient care, including delays in diagnoses, unsafe equipment, and longer waiting times for treatments.
Medical physics and clinical engineering professionals are often unseen but play a vital role in ensuring patient safety, particularly in radiation-related procedures. They work closely with doctors and radiographers, contributing to over 45% of patient treatments in NHS hospitals. They are responsible for delivering radiotherapy treatments, ensuring the safety of medical imaging, and maintaining and operating complex medical devices. They also contribute to advancing and delivering new techniques for patient benefit.
Dr Anna Barnes, President-Elect of IPEM, highlights the importance of the MPCE workforce in supporting the effective functioning of the NHS. They are involved in diagnostics, process improvement, and adapting to evolving technologies to enhance treatments. Their absence would impede the monitoring of patients by nurses and hinder doctors’ decision-making and treatment delivery.
IPEM’s Workforce Intelligence Unit has identified workforce shortfalls and emphasised the need for increased funding and dedicated efforts to expand the MPCE workforce. The aging population and growing healthcare demands further highlight the urgency of addressing this 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 carry out safe diagnostics and provide timely treatment will be severely affected.
Addressing the workforce shortage in medical physics and clinical engineering is crucial to ensure the continued provision of high-quality healthcare services and support the evolving needs of the NHS. Urgent action, including increased funding and training opportunities, is needed to safeguard patient care and maintain the safe and effective functioning of the healthcare system.