The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

The importance of good diagnostic capacity has been exposed by the pressures of the pandemic. With record backlogs, the ability to be able to diagnose and refer new patients is crucial to maintaining quality outcomes and delivering care at the right time, quickly and safely.

But, as a new NHSE report by Professor Sir Mike Richards argues, significant uplifts in workforce, technology and facilities within the next five years, with commitment to invest, is needed right now. 

In his findings, published this week, Professor Richards states diagnostic services were already “approaching a tipping point” prior to covid, with activity outstripping that of other hospital services.

However, a shallow pool of qualified staff and ageing equipment threatens to scupper meeting that demand. Now, after years of urgency from the royal colleges, we could begin to see significant remedies.

Professor Richards makes ambitious recommendations (doubling of workforce, doubling CT capacity and new diagnostic networks among others) which are likely to cost hundreds of millions of pounds if fully realised.

But, as the president of the Royal College of Radiologists, Dr Jeanette Dickson, told HSJ, failure to invest will only lead to “a significant worsening of trends that have always been there”. Some may have forgotten or not fully realised just how important effective diagnostic services are but, as this bold report highlights, there’s no more time for amnesic excuses. 

Framework fizzling

The well-led framework is a powerful tool but an extensive new report commissioned by the CQC has suggested it is being somewhat under-utilised.

The research – done by Alliance Manchester Business School as part of UoM – called for the framework to be extended to national bodies such as NHS England and the CQC itself.

Lead researcher Professor Naomi Chambers said it simply does not make sense not to use the framework for regulatory and oversight bodies, as they are also part of the NHS.

The report also raised an interesting suggestion that an outstanding rating should not be given to a provider unless they also effectively operate across the healthcare system.

Professor Chambers stressed how the current framework is not powered to do this.