The overall aim of the present work was to develop a conceptual framework for managing radiation dose in diagnostic radiology with the intention to support optimisation. An optimisation process was first derived. The framework for managing radiation dose, based on the derived optimisation process, was then outlined. The outset of the optimisation process is four stages: providing equipment, establishing methodology, performing examinations and ensuring quality. The optimisation process comprises a series of activities and actions at these stages. The current system of diagnostic reference levels is an activity in the last stage, ensuring quality. The system becomes a reactive activity only to a certain extent engaging the core activity in the radiology department, performing examinations. Three reference dose levels—possible, expected and established—were assigned to the three stages in the optimisation process, excluding ensuring quality. A reasonably achievable dose range is also derived, indicating an acceptable deviation from the established dose level. A reasonable radiation dose for a single patient is within this range. The suggested framework for managing radiation dose should be regarded as one part of the optimisation process. The optimisation process constitutes a variety of complementary activities, where managing radiation dose is only one part. This emphasises the need to take a holistic approach integrating the optimisation process in different clinical activities.