Radiographers are to be balloted for strikes in the ongoing dispute over NHS pay.
The Society of Radiographers said its 20,000 members in England will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action.
The union is seeking significant improvements in pay and conditions to increase recruitment and retention of radiography professionals, saying it would cut waiting times for patients.
One million patients are currently waiting to be seen by a radiographer, often delaying vital diagnosis and treatment for months, said the society.
Low Pay and Longer Hours Leading Radiographers to Leave the NHS
Dean Rogers, the union’s director of industrial strategy, said: "Doctors and nurses cannot do their jobs without our members – the radiographers, sonographers, mammographers, therapy radiographers, and the radiology support workforce.
"Waiting lists are growing, and, for a cancer patient awaiting diagnosis and radiotherapy treatment, even a 2-week wait can mean the difference between life and death.
He pointed out that radiographers are working "considerably more than their contracted hours", but are working for less, as they have "have faced real-terms cuts to their pay since 2008".
"While total average weekly earnings have increased by 55% since 2008, the wage increase for our members has been less than half that," Mr Rogers explained, adding that these facts have left "man" radiographers to leave the NHS.
"Vacancies are running at a minimum of 10% – indeed, since 2020 the number of mammographers has increased by just one."
He said that some radiographers are moving from the NHS to agencies, "where higher pay – often two or three times their NHS salary – means that they don’t need to work excessive overtime and will have better work-life balance".
“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. “But the Government won’t even talk to us about the fair and reasonable steps required to do this, which is why we feel we have no other option but to ballot our members for strike action."
The society is urging its members to vote in favour of strike action. Members took part in an indicative ballot in April and voted to reject the Government’s pay offer of 5% plus a non-consolidated lump sum for 2022-23.
The money has been paid to most health workers in England after they voted in favour of accepting the offer. But the Unite union is still in dispute with the Government after its members rejected the offer, and the Royal College of Nursing is balloting its members on further strikes.