SIPTU Radiation therapists forced to work extended days to complete cancer treatments

SIPTU members employed as radiation therapists are struggling to provide cancer treatments within the working day.

In a recent survey of members conducted among union members, 91% of respondents said that their location provided an ‘overrun service’ in order to keep on top of caseloads.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “An overrun service occurs when the scheduled service runs beyond the normal finish time. This can happen for a variety of reasons such as the addition of an emergency patient who requires treatment, delays with scheduled treatments throughout the day, machine breakdowns and to accommodate patients on waiting lists. Most radiation therapists will continue to treat scheduled patients until they are all seen.

“Our members have said this is as the result of a stretched service which is in desperate need of more radiation therapists to meet demand. They have also said that the practice is leading to burnout and difficulties with childcare. However, they are doing it out of care for the patients they are treating.”

Separately, the survey revealed that 84% of respondents believed that the public at large was not aware of the role of the radiation therapist in treating cancer.

McCamley continued: “Critically, our members feel as though their role is not recognised as being as crucial as it is in the treatment of cancer. Respondents felt that there is an awareness of the role that chemotherapy and surgery plays in the treatment of cancer, but not radiation therapy. This is despite the fact that radiation therapy is one of the main treatments of cancer.

“There is a view among our membership that you will likely not appreciate the significance of the the role of the radiation therapist unless you’re unfortunate enough to require their help some day.”

The SIPTU Radiation Therapist survey was completed in February 2023 across public and private practice. There are currently approximately 300 radiation therapists practicing in Ireland. Radiation therapy uses targeted high energy x-rays to treat patients with cancer..

SIPTU survey of radiation therapists reveals looming staffing crisis in cancer services

A SIPTU survey of radiation therapists has found that cancer services in both public and private hospitals are facing into significant staffing issues due to most respondents saying they intend to leave the profession within the next five years.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “The survey found that 60% of respondents did not see themselves working as a radiation therapists in five years’ time. Some cited excessive workloads, staffing issues and a lack of a career pathway as the reasons they are considering leaving the service. Some are actively applying for other roles, while others are returning to education to seek an alternative career.

“Radiation therapy is used to treat around half of cancer cases and staffing issues in the service will have a knock-on effect on treatment waiting times. The survey also found that 48% of respondents are either ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their current workplace. Participants believe their pay does not reflect the level of competency required for the role and feel undervalued. Some said they are under pressure and ‘worried’ about the number of patients waiting for radiotherapy.

“The survey also found that 88% of respondents are dissatisfied with their level of pay for the functions they carry out and that the majority would not recommend radiation therapy as a profession.

“The findings of the survey are very troubling. SIPTU representatives have previously called on the Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, to put in place an emergency plan to deal with the imminent staffing crisis in radiation therapy. The findings of this survey demonstrate that there is a need to address staff concerns within the service.”

He added: “The survey was carried out with SIPTU members in both public and private practice among the approximately 300 radiation therapists actively working across the country during 2023. The majority of respondents were in the 18 to 34 age cohort. It is very worrying that most state that they do not see themselves working in the field long-term. It calls into question the sustainability of the service if a coherent plan is not put in place to recruit and retain staff.”

SIPTU calls for emergency plan to deal with staffing deficits in cancer services

SIPTU representatives have called on the HSE and the Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, to develop an emergency plan to deal with the deficits in cancer services resulting from a 30% shortfall in radiation therapists.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “Our members have established that the staffing deficit is causing increasing delays in cancer treatment. There are currently at least four cancer treatment machines that are not in operation around the country due to a lack of qualified radiation therapists.

“These machines could treat around 30 patients a day meaning there may be as much as 120 cases not being dealt with on a daily basis due to staffing deficits. Radiation therapists perform a crucial job, as almost half of people with a cancer diagnosis will require radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. This treatment is delivered by radiation therapists as part of a multi-disciplinary team. It is the only profession with the legal authority to deliver radiation therapy services which are mainly provided by the HSE in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

“We have successfully argued for the setting up of the Radiation Therapist Review which will hopefully recommend measures to improve recruitment and retention. The union is calling for a short-term emergency plan to bridge the gap between the present situation and when the recommendations of the Radiation Therapist Review are agreed and implemented.”

He added: “The HSE and the Minister for Health need to act decisively to avert a full-blown staffing crisis within cancer services. Our members are calling for special provision to deal with the recruitment and retention issues for radiation therapists due to their crucial role in the delivery of cancer services. They have also requested that sufficient dedicated support staff be placed in radiation therapy departments to help with patient flow and to support radiation therapists so more of their time can be focused on carrying out treatment.”

First meeting of National Radiation Therapist Review Group takes place

SIPTU have welcomed the first meeting of the National Radiation Therapist Review Group which took place today, December 1st.

This first meeting takes place at a crucial time for cancer treatment services. Radiation therapy is used in the treatment of around half of all cancer cases. This treatment is delivered by radiation therapists who, as part of a multi-disciplinary team, have the legal authority to carry out this role. SIPTU has continuously raised the crisis that exists in the recruitment and retention of radiation therapists; and the knock-on effect it is having in delayed treatment for patients. Currently there is approximately a 15% shortage of Radiation Therapists nationally.

Following the meeting Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said “The National Radiation Therapist Review Group will investigate and make recommendations on a range of matters which could alleviate the recruitment and retention crisis among radiation therapists. This will involve exploring areas around safe staffing, career progression, advanced practice, managerial structures and role development for the radiation therapist.”

It is hoped that the Review will contribute to the continued professionalisation of the service to the benefit of staff and patients.

SIPTU meets Minister for Health to discuss role of Radiographers and Radiation Therapists

SIPTU representatives today (Thursday, 26th May) met with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to discuss the potential to develop the role of Radiation Therapists and Radiographers in the health service.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “At the meeting we presented the Minister with our members’ vision for the positive development of the role of Radiation Therapists and Radiographers. Advances in technology, education qualifications and state registration present an opportunity for the transformation of the manner in which scans and treatment are prescribed, performed and reported on.”

SIPTU Radiographers and Radiation Therapists National Executive President, Michele Monahan described the meeting as “positive”.

She said: “Our members believe an advancement of their role will ensure that the best use of diagnostic services is secured to the benefit of patients. We look forward to future engagement with the Minister’s office to further expand on proposals for role expansion in the health service which are included in the Programme for Government.”

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “We informed the Minister that we are seeking to deliver sustainable solutions to the challenges health workers face every day within our health service.

“SIPTU has 45,000 members within the Nursing and Midwifery, Allied Health Professionals, National Ambulance Service and Support Grades in the health service. Our members look forward to developing a constructive working relationship with the Minister and his Department.”

Read a copy of the submission here

To download a workplace poster for our CPD day on the 11th of June click here

World Radiography Day

World Radiography Day is celebrated on 8 November each year. The date marks the anniversary of the discovery of x-radiation by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895.

World Radiography Day has been proudly embraced internationally for over 100 years by those involved in radiographic imaging and therapy. Radiography came into being in 1895 when Röntgen first produced and discovered the electromagnetic radiation wavelength commonly known as an x-ray. Röntgen inadvertently witnessed a radiograph of the bones of his own hand during testing the penetration of various materials. It took a further 2 weeks of diligent and meticulous exploration of this discovery for Röntgen to produce the famous first recorded x-ray / radiograph of his wife’s hand. Röntgen, as a result of this discovery, published his first original paper, “Über eine neue Art von Strahlen” (On A New Kind Of Rays) on 28 December 1895. He subsequently won the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901.

Radiographers worldwide use the day to promote radiography as a career, as a vital contribution to modern healthcare and as a chance to increase public awareness of diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy.


Watch SIPTU Radiographers and Radiation Therapists talk about their role in our health services here

Smiling businessman drinking coffee with his colleagues during coffee break

WRD 2015 resources

Radiographers Registration Board Notice of Election 2015 and Request for Nominations

SIPTU members working as Radiographers and Radiation Therapists are advised CORU are seeking to hold elections for (6) positions to the radiographer registration board in early December 2015.

The following notice refers to both radiographers and radiation therapists and states:

‘As provided for in the Election of Members for Appointment to the Radiographers Registration Board Bye-Law 2014, this is the official notice of the holding of the 2015 election of six members to the Radiographers Registration Board and request for nominations of candidates.

Vacancies arise in the following Three Electoral Categories

Category 1: Three vacancies for registrants who are engaged in the practice of the profession of radiographer or radiation therapist

Category 2: Two vacancies for registrants who are engaged in the management of services provided by the profession of radiographer or radiation therapist

Category 3: One vacancy for registrants who are engaged in education provided for the profession of radiographer or radiation therapist’

Please note that nominations are being requested by CORU to be received by the returning officer no later than the 16th November 2015.

Should any SIPTU member wish to put themselves forward for a position please email for more details.

SIPTU urge all Radiographers and Radiation Therapists to get State registered

All SIPTU members working as Radiographers and Radiation Therapists are being reminded to apply to register with CORU by the October 31st 2015.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, with responsibility for all Allied Health Professionals, Kevin Figgis said: “We are running an awareness campaign throughout October on and social media to ensure that no member is left behind when the date closes for State registration on October 31st 2015.

Speaking to Mr Figgis said: “State registration is compulsory under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 for all Radiographers and Radiation Therapists. We believe that professional registration protects patients and the strengths development of professional standards and ethics in the workplace. It underpins the need for registrants to prioritise continuous professional development as well as progressing complaints and fitness to practice.”

Mr Figgis added: “SIPTU will actively campaign throughout October to assist and support our members to register. We will also encourage all Radiographers and Radiation Therapists to join SIPTU and organise to ensure that professional registration is a positive component of their professional development in our health service.”