OPERATIONS and scans at Colchester Hospital will be impacted by striking radiographers, its boss has said.

Members of the Society of Radiographers at 37 NHS trusts, including the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust, walked out for 48 hours at 8am today.

It is the first time radiographers have balloted for strike action in the ongoing row over pay and conditions for NHS staff.

Alice Humphries, who qualified as a radiographer in October but has worked in Colchester Hospital’s breast imaging department for five years, said she is “really passionate” about her job but added she felt like she had “no other option” but to strike, and she would do it again if necessary.

Gazette: Radiographers - Colchester Hospital staff walked out todayRadiographers - Colchester Hospital staff walked out today (Image: Alice Humphries)

Speaking from a picket line outside the hospital, the 30-year-old said: “We don’t feel appreciated in the way we should be despite being an integral part of the allied health professions.

“Anyone who is admitted to hospital will come across a radiographer. There is no diagnosis without imaging.

“I’m really passionate about and love this profession but it’s a profession which is really struggling, and staff are leaving the NHS in droves because they’re being paid better elsewhere.”

Union members voted to reject the Government’s five per cent pay award and called for talks to re-open after other public sector workers, including junior doctors, were offered more.

Gazette: Vital - radiographers play an important role in the running of a hospitalVital - radiographers play an important role in the running of a hospital (Image: PA)

Reflecting on the pay row so far, Alice added: “We’ve tried to have meaningful talks which have gone absolutely nowhere, and we’ve had no real proposals for a decent pay rise. Anything below inflation at this point is just an insult.

We need the five per cent we were given to be reviewed because it’s not good enough and we need proper funding to support recruitment and retention because this is a profession which requires staff to be so highly trained.”

“Something has got to give as the NHS is losing so many staff, and it’s not just radiographers, it’s the same in every profession.

“There are nurses who are going and getting jobs in supermarkets because they’re getting paid better and it’s just not good enough anymore.”

The varied role of a radiographer means their absence has been felt across the wider hospital.

In an interview with Times Radio, the trust’s chief executive Nick Hulme revealed 80 per cent fewer examinations and scans went ahead today compared to a typical day.

Gazette: Hospital boss - Nick HulmeHospital boss - Nick Hulme (Image: Archant)

He said: “[Radiographers also] work very closely with our surgeons and in the operating theatres for the guided operations that we need to perform – so we’re also losing 58 operations today which is obviously really, really distressing for those patients.

“But it also means that we’ve got teams of people – the surgeons, the anaesthetists, the nurses, and everybody else in recovery, who were just basically not able to work today.

“So for the lack of a radiographer, we lose a whole list, and therefore we lose a whole team of people who can’t do their job – then again, adding to significantly longer waits than anybody would want.

“It’s the patients who are paying the price for this industrial action – whether it is the consultants, the junior doctors, or radiographers, any of it, and we need to find a solution quickly.”

The current radiographers’ strike is due to end at 8am on Thursday.