Radiographers at 35 NHS trusts in England begin a 48-hour strike today in a continuing dispute with the Government over pay and conditions.
Members of the Society of Radiographers (SoR) voted to reject a 5% pay award after other public sector workers, including hospital consultants and junior doctors, were offered more.
England's Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, said the pay offer was "final" and urged radiographers to call off the strike.
The industrial action, which will last from 8am on Tuesday 25 July until 8am on Thursday 27 July will affect trusts including the Royal Marsden, University College London Hospitals, Liverpool University Hospitals, and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
'Underpaid and Burnt Out'
According to the union, many radiographers "work punishingly long shifts to ensure that patient care does not suffer as a result of staffing shortages".
In a series of case studies presented by the SoR, one radiographer from Cheshire said: "I don’t think I’ve ever seen radiography staffing this bad. People are leaving – they’re just burnt out." A south London radiographer described missing a cousin's funeral because there was no one to provide cover that day. And a radiology department assistant from Southampton said money was so tight that taking a holiday had been unaffordable for the last 5 years.
The SoR is calling for at least the same pay rise given to doctors and teachers. It argues that nine in 10 NHS patients are supported by a radiography professional and that a million people are currently waiting for radiography.
Dean Rogers, executive director of industrial strategy and member relations for the SoR, said radiographers were "feeling burnt out by low pay and increased hours", while those leaving the profession were not being replaced in adequate numbers. “If the Government wants to reduce NHS waiting lists and ensure that patients receive the treatment they need, when they need it, then it must urgently prioritise the recruitment and retention of radiography professionals," he said.
The Society claims that the Government is refusing to negotiate over its demands.
Pay Offer 'Fair and Reasonable'
In a comment sent to Medscape News UK, Mr Barclay said radiographers were offered a "fair and reasonable" 5% pay increase for 2023-24, "alongside two significant one-off payments totalling at least £1655". An explanatory background note from the Department of Health and Social Care said those consisted of a non-consolidated award of 2% of an individual’s salary for 2022-23 and a one-off NHS 'backlog bonus', worth at least £1250 per person, determined by an individual's experience and pay band.
The SoR said it had worked with trust executives to provide "life and limb" cover for patients, with staffing levels similar to those on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
In an emailed statement, NHS Providers said the impact from the latest strike "cannot be underestimated" and predicted that patients would be "hit hard". Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy, said: "This walkout marks the end of the most disruptive fortnight of strikes in the history of the NHS and will add to the snowballing ramifications of industrial action since December."