Retention of radiographers: A qualitative exploration of factors influencing decisions to leave or remain within the NHS

Radiography (Lond). 2021 Jan 8;S1078-8174(20)30272-8. doi: 10.1016/j.radi.2020.12.008. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: In many countries a widening imbalance exists between radiographer workforce supply and demand. Improving retention is a rapid method of workforce expansion which is gaining importance with policy makers and providers. To better understand the current leaver profile, this study aimed to identify why radiographers leave the NHS early, and what incentives are important in their decision to stay.

Methods: A qualitative framework methodology used semi-structured telephone interviews to explore the perspectives of radiography managers, radiographers who have left the NHS, and those considering leaving. Purposive sampling ensured representation across radiography professional groups, geographical and organisational diversity, and stages of career.

Results: Three over-arching themes were identified across all radiographer professional groups (n = 44): 1) Challenging working patterns and the impact on employee health and wellbeing; 2) Lack of flexibility in working terms and conditions; 3) Lack of timely career progression and access to CPD, and the need to feel valued. Radiographers were keen to express how they 'loved being a radiographer'; small concessions and changes to workplace culture might be the incentive to remain in radiography that some were clearly searching for. Manager participants recognised the need to offer greater flexibility in working patterns but this was challenging within financial and service delivery constraints.

Conclusions: While some influencing factors varied between radiographer professional groups, the three themes were consistent across participants. Failure to address these concerns will exacerbate the loss of experienced and highly trained staff from the NHS at a time when demand for services continues to rise.

Impact on practice: Recommendations are presented related to three primary themes which will be a catalyst for sharing of best practice between radiology and radiotherapy centres.

Keywords: Career progression; Continuing professional development; Flexible working; Retention; Shift working; Workforce.