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Radiographers warn next strike could hit 100 trusts

Published on: 2 Aug 2023

The Society of Radiographers is considering reballoting members in an effort to significantly increase the scope of its industrial action, the union’s director of industrial strategy has told HSJ.

Radiographers took part in a 48-hour walkout last week in a dispute over pay. The industrial action affected the 37 trusts at which the threshold for a strike mandate has been reached.

The Society of Radiographers’ 33,000 members are a cornerstone of diagnostics in the NHS as well as cancer pathways. The strike was the first time the organisation has taken independent industrial action in its 103-year history.

SoR director of industrial strategy Dean Rogers said the government’s refusal to negotiate over its 5 per cent pay offer – and higher awards given to other workers such as teachers – could persuade more of the society’s members to back strike action.  

Mr Rogers told HSJ the SoR was looking at where the 5 per cent deal was holding up “and where it wasn’t”.

The SoR director pointed out the threshold for strike action was only narrowly missed at many trusts during the first ballot. He expressed confidence that staff at up to a further 70 organisations would vote to strike if balloted again. Mr Rogers named major teaching hospital trusts including Leeds, Manchester, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Imperial as providers which could see walkouts.

He added: “Our members are sick of being othered. Doctors, nurses and our members are the front of the frontline… [and are] being crucified on a daily basis for not meeting waiting list targets. The government needs to think about whether they are going to provoke another strike”.

The Royal Marsden, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Liverpool University Hospitals, Sheffield and King’s College Hospital foundation trusts were among the highest-profile trusts whose radiographers took industrial action last Wednesday and Thursday. 

Great Ormond Street told HSJ it saw a 75 per cent reduction in activity compared to the same two-day period in 2022.

Chief executive Matthew Shaw apologised to the affected patients and said that while he supported staff’s right to strike, a solution needed to be found to disputes with SoR and the British Medical Association.

“In the past eight months, we’ve had a total of 25 days of industrial action at GOSH, and I cannot overestimate the impact that the strikes are having on our patients and our staff. A resolution must be found as soon as possible.”

Another hospital boss told HSJ the radiographers’ strike was “very disruptive and stopped a lot of activity – including some cancer treatments from the therapeutic radiographers”.

A trust boss in the south of England told HSJ that while a lot of orthopaedic work was cancelled, medical specialties were largely unaffected.

NHS England on Tuesday told HSJ its official data on the impact of the strike was inaccurate.

The dataset published on Friday after the strike said that over the two days, 12,423 outpatients appointments were rescheduled across England, and that more than a quarter of these were at King’s College Hospital FT. The official data showed that half of the disruption caused by the walkout occurred at just four trusts in London and the south of England.

King’s admitted the strike had caused significant disruption but nationally the figures appear to have underestimated the impact as many trusts choose not to schedule work on strike days. 

Radiographers are on Agenda for Change pay-scales and in a statement last week health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said the 5 per cent deal for this financial year plus £1,655 was “final and so I urge the Society of Radiographers to call off strikes.”