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National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA)

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Introducing the NBIA

The National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA) programme is a collaborative, multidisciplinary initiative which aims to address the significant workforce issues facing breast imaging services across England. The NBIA approach includes establishing a national centre of excellence for training, developing high-quality training programmes for all staff and an innovative, online learning hub.

The programme is funded by Health Education England, hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and works in collaboration with NHS England and Improvement, 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.

Mammographers, breast radiologists and radiographers play a vital role in breast cancer screening and diagnosis – but there is currently a national shortage of these key colleagues. Even before the pandemic, breast screening waiting times continued to grow due to severe workforce shortages in breast imaging. Almost 15% of breast radiologist and radiographic posts are vacant nationally, and by 2025 around 40% of the senior doctors are expected to retire.

Established in 2017 to tackle these issues on a national basis, the NBIA is dedicated to getting more trained staff into the multidisciplinary workforce.  A comprehensive programme of training, recruitment and career development opportunities is helping to attract a more diverse workforce, and so improve the sustainability of breast services. Ultimately this will contribute to reduced screening backlogs, shorter referral times and ensuring that patients receive the best care possible.

Use the links below or the dropdown menu to find out more about:

Mammography Associate Level 4 Apprenticeship

NBIA Radiology Fellowship

Breast Clinician Credential

Academy Online e-learning resources

The one-year Level 4 apprenticeship programme was developed by the Mammography Associate Trailblazer Group, comprising NHS and academic experts, the Society and College of Radiographers and Public Health England (now part of NHS England and Improvement).

Launched in autumn 2019, it provides a standardised training pathway, funded through the Apprenticeship Levy and Health Education England, making this an attractive scheme for both employers and prospective trainees.

The NBIA Radiography working group, comprising colleagues from around the country, has worked to establish the apprenticeship standard and to deliver a robust End Point Assessment (EPA). This comprises an exam, clinical practice observation and discussion, and is managed and quality assured through Pearson, an independent end point assessment organisation.

The apprenticeship is being delivered by:

 - St George’s National Breast Education Centre(with South Thames College)

 - NBIA, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (with HEE)

 - Jarvis Breast Centre (with The Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust).

Supported by a mentor, the apprentices undertake academic study sessions and on the job training in their host NHS Trusts. The apprenticeship programme covers clinical mammography, mammography science, professional practice, quality assurance, communication and team working, and health and safety.  The apprentices’ learning is supported by the NBIA’s Academy Online resources.

The apprenticeship programme has been a very successful route to bringing new staff into the workforce, from a variety of backgrounds. Employing Mammography Associates is a cost-effective way of running breast services, and it enables qualified radiographers to be freed up to take on more advanced roles.

Visit the NBIA website for more information or contact breastacademy@mft.nhs.uk.

The NBIA has also launched an animation to highlight how the Mammography Associate apprenticeship programme is helping to boost staffing levels in the NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP).

This innovative fellowship provides a comprehensive training pathway which complements the existing workforce and helps to future-proof staffing. 

Established in 2019 and part-funded by Health Education England, the one-year programme allows fellows to enhance their skills in all aspects of breast imaging while they support radiology service delivery. Fellows gain their clinical experience at the host Trust which is supplemented by NBIA online resources.

The NBIA undertakes the international advertisement, short listing and recruitment for these posts, and supports host sites with template business cases and job descriptions. The NBIA also provides fully funded specialist study blocks, a dedicated study leave budget per trainee and networking opportunities with breast imagers across England.

The scheme has already appointed 31 fellows from around the world to various breast units across England. Of the 15 who have completed the programme, 13 have taken up posts at their training hospital or in other breast units in England.

Applications for the 2023 Fellowship cohort open in January 2023.

Information for candidates

Information for host sites

For more information visit the NBIA website; to register your interest as a host site or candidate please contact breastacademy@mft.nhs.uk

The Association of Breast Clinicians (ABC), Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), NBIA and Health Education England (HEE) worked collaboratively to establish a new three-year training programme, offering a standardised credential for trainee breast clinicians.

Representatives from these organisations convened a project board that leads the initiative, and HEE provided funding support for a pilot cohort of ten trainees. A recruitment drive to sites across England attracted over 220 applications. The first ten trainees started in August 2019 and start completing their training in summer 2022.

The credential provides a holistic approach to breast disease management, with breast clinicians working across radiology, surgery and family history. The curriculum is supported by courses, online resources and a robust assessment process.

Based on the evaluation of the successful pilot programme, funding for a second cohort was awarded in 2021/22. Another ten trainees have been identified and matched to host sites around England.

Visit the NBIA website for more information or contact breastacademy@mft.nhs.uk.

The NBIA has worked with over 200 colleagues from around the UK to develop a programme on the elearning for Health (elfh) platform for all levels of breast imaging staff.

The Academy Online provides an easy to access training resource for anyone involved in breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment. It is freely available to all NHS staff, 24 hours a day. Currently, 150 sessions are uploaded, covering breast imaging, surgery, pathology, nursing, oncology and risk & prevention.

The programme aims to complement face-to-face clinical training and also to provide valuable CPD resources for qualified staff. The sessions form a vital part of a number of formal training programmes, run by a variety of providers. There are sessions suitable for all levels of staff, from trainees through to senior clinicians.

A national breast imaging case archive is also being developed by the NBIA in collaboration with the Scientific Computing team at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. This will contain tens of thousands of validated cases available to all UK breast imagers to support and enhance learning.

The Academy Online offers a national online learning community with further resources to complement the elfh programme and provide mentoring and support to trainees and staff. Online tutorials and webinars are being uploaded to the Learning Hub to support training.

Visit the NBIA website for more information or contact breastacademy@mft.nhs.uk.

From running training events to participating in conferences and discussion panels, the NBIA is keen to promote the career development opportunities available to new and qualified colleagues within the breast imaging profession.

Visit the NBIA website or contact breastacademy@mft.nhs.uk for details of upcoming events.

For the latest news from the NBIA, please visit the website or follow the NBIA on social media: @_nbia_