National Breast Imaging Academy set to save the NHS £50m

Independent analysis has shown that, by addressing breast imaging workforce shortages, the National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA) can deliver better health outcomes for patients and up to £50m of savings for the economy.

The NBIA was established back in 2018 to develop new training programmes in a bid to tackle recruitment and retention issues across England’s breast imaging workforce – and now, it has developed four new initiatives that third party predictors estimate will deliver huge economic savings over the next 10 years.

The schemes include a Mammography Associate apprenticeship, which economists believe will save the healthcare economy up to £18m; a Breast Clinician Credential, which is set to save £9m; a Radiology Fellowship, which could save £12m; and a range of e-learning modules for breast imaging professionals that is set to save £11m over the next 10 years.

The NBIA’s contribution to each of the aforementioned initiatives was also calculated – the calculations revealed that the benefit that was solely attributable to the NBIA topped £39m. Included as part of the report’s key findings, the authors also noted how, when taking the NBIA’s running costs over the 10-year period into account, the overall net benefit was £32m. The equivalent of a 4.5:1 benefit to cost ratio.

NBIA Programme Lead, Dr Mary Wilson, said: “The NBIA has provided a national focal point to address the workforce issues in breast imaging, enabling trainers from across the country to work collaboratively. By supporting and developing new training pathways, we have already provided a significant uplift in the multidisciplinary workforce. This includes the 160 Mammography Associates enrolled to date, plus the 31 Radiology Fellows and 20 Breast Clinicians undertaking or completing their training.

“This is all welcome news for patients, in terms of tackling the backlog in routine screening appointments and speeding up referrals for diagnosis and treatment. However, to ensure our breast services are safeguarded for the future, and to further reduce breast cancer mortality, we need ongoing planned investment in trainers, trainees and training facilities across the country.”

The NBIA programme is funded by Health Education England (HEE) and is hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which works in partnership with NHS England, the Royal College of Radiologists, the Society and College of Radiographers, the Association of Breast Clinicians, the British Society of Breast Radiology, Breast Cancer Now, and Prevent Breast Cancer.

Nerys Blake, Deputy Director of Diagnostics Workforce, HEE (Cancer and Diagnostics Programme) and NHS England (Diagnostics Programme) said: “HEE is delighted to have provided support for the NBIA in their work to identify and address the current breast imaging workforce challenges.

“This collaborative work has enabled the NBIA to introduce a national breast radiology fellowship programme, develop and pilot a credentialed training programme for breast clinicians, establish apprenticeship programmes for different levels of the workforce, develop a suite of online resources to support breast imaging trainees and professionals (the ‘Academy Online’) and implement a campaign to raise awareness of opportunities and careers in breast imaging.

“HEE is extremely pleased to see the valuable work of the NBIA outlined in this report and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them in supporting the education and training development of the breast imaging workforce.”

The independent report concluded by saying: “The NBIA has provided a focal point for the development, implementation, and oversight, of initiatives designed to address chronic workforce issues relating to the Breast Imaging workforce.

“Although there are many stakeholder organizations with an interest in Breast Imaging, none have a unique mandate to initiate, facilitate, develop, and implement solutions to the workforce problems.

“The initiatives promoted by the NBIA will each add significant value to the system, ensuring services for patients are delivered and that outcomes for women with Breast Cancer are improved. Alternative strategies would have been less efficient (even if they were achievable).”

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