By Jon Childs – The latest on nuclear medicine and its impact on people and the environment in the UK and around the worldBy Jon Child.
Ahead of next week’s Royal Society conference, the Royal College of Physicians has published a new paper on nuclear health, which highlights some of the major challenges faced by practitioners of nuclear medicine in the coming years.
The Royal College, which is chaired by Professor John Collins, is a global body that is committed to supporting nuclear medicine as a leading public health priority.
The paper says that the global demand for nuclear medicine has risen in recent years, but that many practitioners remain reluctant to get involved.
“It is a challenging time in the nuclear medicine field, and there is a lot of uncertainty around what is the right path forward for nuclear practitioners and their patients,” Dr Collins told the BBC.
“There is a need to recognise the growing needs of the nuclear healthcare profession, and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to ensure that the best and most effective solutions are available to our patients.”
The report highlights some challenges facing practitioners of the practice.
The UK’s nuclear medicine sector has experienced a steady increase in its membership over the last few years, particularly in the last two years.
But the UK has not always been a leader in the field.
In 2006, only a handful of British practitioners were registered, and that was because there was no national licensing system for nuclear medical practitioners.
Now, the number of registered nuclear medicine practitioners in the country has grown by a factor of 20,000 since 2006.
The report notes that the number and nature of the challenges faced in the healthcare system for the nuclear medical profession have varied across the world.
“For the past few years we have seen a surge in cases of cancer, stroke, and heart disease, which have made it increasingly difficult for the doctors to get their work recognised, and for the practitioners to be able to provide the care that their patients need,” Dr Childs said.
The study also highlights some other issues faced by the UK nuclear medical industry.
The issue of radiation exposure and the public health response to it has become a major focus for the Royal Society’s report.
“Many of the people who are exposed to radiation from the nuclear industry are young and healthy, yet they often have little or no exposure to the radiation,” Dr Thomas Tredyffel, the paper’s lead author, told the Guardian.
“This poses challenges for the public and healthcare systems and can have a significant impact on the long-term health of people exposed to this kind of radiation.”
The potential impacts are so serious that in some countries, such as South Africa, there is an effort underway to limit exposure to radiation in children.
“This is one of the problems faced by nuclear medicine, Dr Collins said.”
In South Africa we have a long-standing policy of not allowing children to go to school, and it is still considered a very risky activity for them to play on the school playground.
“However, he added that there were ways in which the health benefits of nuclear health could be maximised.”
We can’t just wait for the inevitable cancer or heart attack.
We need to be actively engaging in the prevention of these types of illnesses in young people.
“And we need better monitoring of exposure, as well as better monitoring in the workplace.”
A growing body of evidence shows that we need more, not less, of these interventions, and a public health strategy that is inclusive of all health concerns needs to be developed.
“In an accompanying editorial, Professor John Danko, the president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, wrote:”The report recognises the challenges that many nuclear medicine practices face, but it also looks forward to the future.
We are optimistic that we can continue to deliver better outcomes for patients and the planet, and to make a positive contribution to the long term health of the population.
“Our research and development programme, including the UK National Nuclear Medicine Programme, continues to improve the capacity of UK nuclear practitioners to deliver the highest quality medicine and services to patients and society.”
The Royal Society is chaired in its role by Professor Collins.