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09 October 2012

The professional organisation for the people who deliver life-saving radiotherapy to patients who have cancer are pleased with the news that a key treatment is being supported with more funding.

The £15 million Cancer Radiotherapy Innovation Fund, which is intended to make Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) more widely available in England, is welcomed by the Society and College of Radiographers.

Professor Audrey Paterson, the Society's Director of Professional Policy, said:

"This is an important initiative for patients and will support commissioning radiotherapy services to a national standard across England, so eliminating current 'postcode gaps'. Patients will be able to access the most appropriate treatment for the type of cancer that they have, regardless of where they live.

"The government has indicated that they want all the professions to be involved with the roll-out of the new fund, and we welcome this. Our involvement is essential because it is multi-disciplinary teams, which include therapeutic radiographers, that deliver radiotherapy.

"Equipment and staff challenges mean that patients in some regions of England are not getting the world-class treatment that they should be. We hope that some of the new money will be used to invest in additional staff development targeted at implementing IMRT effectively, as well as in the relevant equipment and software. This will ensure that IMRT technology can be used to maximum benefit rapidly.

"There are not enough qualified and trained people to plan and deliver radiotherapy services in all geographical areas of the country."

The Cancer Radiotherapy Innovation Fund is intended to speed-up the use of Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) across the NHS in England so that an estimated 8000 more cancer patients can benefit from the technique from April 2013.

IMRT targets more precise doses of radiation at a tumour, whilst minimising the impact on surrounding healthy tissue. It is particularly beneficial for patients with head and neck cancers - which are on the increase - reducing the likelihood of side effects such as damage to the salivary glands. A significant number of the 50 radiotherapy treatment centres across England are not using IMRT for all the patients for whom it is clinically appropriate and who would benefit.

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