RUTHERFORD Diagnostics Centre in Taunton is set to become the first independent facility in the UK to offer conventional apprenticeship training to student radiographers.

This is part of a move to address the growing skills shortage facing the sector, and the new model means that apprentices are now able to take part in a three-year BSc (Hons) in Diagnostic Radiography and Imaging through the University of Exeter.

On top of their studies, the course will see them based between Rutherford Diagnostic Centre Somerset (independent) and Musgrove Park Hospital (NHS).

Somerset County Gazette: Hannah Pickard, Rutherford Diagnostics. Picture; Rutherford Diagnostics Centre

All of this is possible thanks to a unique partnership between Rutherford Diagnostics, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Exeter.

This degree-level apprenticeship, means that in addition to the academic support provided by the university, the trainee will have a significant amount of work-based learning via employment in a wide variety of healthcare environments.

Jill McKenna, head of imaging and operations at Rutherford Health, said: “Protecting radiography training is vital – it is such a key part of a patient’s diagnostic journey.

"Our profession was under huge pressure prior to the pandemic, and that has only been exacerbated, now is a critical time for radiography and medical imaging professions, both in the NHS and independent sector, to enhance our training provision to nurture our future workforce.

“This apprenticeship provides diagnostic radiographers with an exceptional level of training, education and on-the-job experience. We’re very proud, even in a small way, to be helping the nation’s shortage of radiographers and hope to see this programme grow.”

Hannah Pickard, a 33-year-old from Devon, will become the first apprentice to be trained through this new apprenticeship initiative at Rutherford Health.

She said: “After initially studying graphic design, it’s safe to say my career journey to this point hasn’t exactly been conventional.

"In 2017 I started working in the radiography department at Weston General Hospital and moved onto Rutherford Diagnostic Centre Somerset in October last year as a radiographic assistant.

"I quickly found that my passion lay in diagnostics and immediately wanted to learn more.

Somerset County Gazette: Hannah Pickard, Rutherford Diagnostics. Picture; Rutherford Diagnostics Centre

“I wasn’t actually aware of the apprentice scheme when I applied for my job, and only learned about it a few months later and I was delighted to be accepted onto the course by the University of Exeter and I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to study while also working in both an acute care and private setting."

The new diagnostic apprenticeship model at the Rutherford Diagnostic Centre will run in addition to the existing apprenticeship programme which the NHS Trust runs at Musgrove Park Hospital which is now in its third year.

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