The Society of Radiographers said almost 1,000 members will vote in the coming weeks in a campaign to secure improvements to pay and conditions.
Radiographers in Northern Ireland are being balloted for strikes in the ongoing pay dispute in the health service.
The Society of Radiographers said almost 1,000 of its members will vote in the coming weeks as part of a campaign to secure improvements to pay and conditions.
The society said nine out of 10 patients in Health and Social Care Northern Ireland are supported by a radiography professional but too few radiographers are being recruited or retained.
As a result, more than 173,000 people are waiting for a diagnostic appointment – delaying vital diagnosis and treatment, said the society.
Cora Regan, Northern Ireland national officer for the Society of Radiographers, said: “Doctors and nurses cannot do their jobs without a team of radiographers, sonographers and radiography assistants – and waiting lists are growing.
“Almost 10% of the population of Northern Ireland is waiting for a diagnostic test. This wait means cases become more complex and, for some patients, even a two-week delay can mean the difference between life and death.
“Our members tell us that they regularly work over and above their contracted hours to care for patients and attempt to reduce waiting times.
“Many departmental managers now automatically rota radiographers for overtime – rather than asking for overtime on a voluntary basis – as it’s the only way they can make sure there’s enough staff available.
“At the same time, pay has been dropping further and further behind the rest of the UK. Radiographers in Scotland are now paid 12% more than in Northern Ireland and radiography professionals living near the Republic of Ireland can drive 20 minutes across the border and earn at least £5,000 more a year than they would in Northern Ireland.
“The pressure to increase hours to cover the work, coupled with low pay, means that many radiography professionals are simply quitting – or going to work in the South for higher pay – and they are not being replaced in adequate numbers.
“Managers tell us that highly qualified colleagues are leaving healthcare altogether, to take jobs with better pay and benefits.”
The result of the ballot is due in early September.
The society’s members in Northern Ireland took part in a consultative ballot earlier this year which showed strong support for industrial action in the absence of any pay offer in Northern Ireland.