Radiotherapy :: Developing a world class Radiotherapy service for England

An independent report looking at how current radiotherapy resources could be put to better use and how we should plan for a radiotherapy service that will meet the future needs of the population, has been issued today by the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group, led by Professor Mike Richards, the national cancer director, and Dr Michael Williams the vice president of the Royal College of Radiologists.

The NHS is delivering better cancer treatment to more people than ever before with:

Cancer mortality in people under 75 falling by nearly 16% between 1996 and 2004. This equates to over 50,000 lives saved over this period;

the number of therapy radiographers (the staff who operate the radiotherapy machines) rose by 31% between 1997 and 2004 (from 1,407 to 1,839); and

?4.3 billion spent last year on cancer services – a 12% increase on the year before.

Today’s report acknowledges that radiotherapy services have already seen huge improvements, with double the number of staff training to be radiographers and heavy investment in radiotherapy equipment. However the report also found that:

– the need for radiotherapy services was significantly underestimated by planners 15-20 years ago;

– as a result, despite positive actions the Government has taken over recent years, there is a significant gap in radiotherapy capacity (both in terms of equipment and staff); and

– cancer incidence will increase further due to a more elderly population over the next 10 years.

Professor Mike Richards, national cancer director, says:

“We have doubled the number of staff training to be radiographers and invested heavily in radiotherapy equipment. However, we need more capacity, both in terms of staff and equipment. This report is very helpful in setting out how this could be achieved both in terms of using what we already have more effectively but also in planning better for the future.

“The problems that we are seeing now with radiotherapy stem from a failure of planning 15-20 years ago. At that time experts predicted that radiotherapy would not have a key role to play in cancer care in the future and that demand would fall. As a result it was not an area prioritised by the NHS for development and expansion.

“I am pleased that Ministers have taken this report seriously. With immediate effect, they have committed ?5 million of capital funding to support novel training facilities recommended in the report. They have also asked that I take the broader recommendations into account as I develop the Cancer Reform Strategy, which will map the way forward for cancer services in England, and that I bring the report to the attention of cancer networks so that they can start to consider if the services they are delivering are as productive as they could be.”

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