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Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Issue 178

Radiotherapy4Life campaign launched to highlight need for more staff

Analysis released today estimates that thousands of cancer patients across the UK are missing out on radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy is needed by 1 in 4 people each year and "underfunding and inadequate co-ordination of services has left the UK with a crisis of access to this life saving treatment," according to the Action Radiotherapy (AR) charity.

A new campaign, Radiotherapy4Life, backed by Action Radiotherapy, will highlight the issues and identify solutions. The campaign is led by former-England and Manchester United football legend, Bryan Robson, and paralympian gold medallist, David Smith.

The AR report says: "The fact that nearly 24,000 people are missing out on radiotherapy suggests that several thousand people a year could be dying or suffering unnecessarily.

"It is particularly shocking that some of these preventable deaths are occurring because NHS England aren’t commissioning NHS trusts to allow them to use existing machines to their full level of capability.

"This campaign will raise public awareness of the amazing recent developments in radiotherapy and the dedicated skilled workforce that are ensuring more patients with cancer survive each year”.

Bryan Robson benefitted from radiotherapy in 2011 and David Smith is currently receiving treatment, which he describes as 'life-changing'.

The campaign is calling for:

  • An increase in the budget for radiotherapy from 5% to 6.5%, with a one-off ring fenced investment of £250 million to provide comprehensive regional access.
  • A further £100 million a year ongoing investment in staff and IT infrastructure and the establishment of a radiotherapy tsar. The tsar should be given powers to coordinate implementation of an advanced world class radiotherapy service across the whole of the country.
  • Radical reforms to the commissioning process for radiotherapy.

"We very much welcome this initiative and applaud the intentions to increase workforce and IT funding," Charlotte Beardmore, the Society's director of professional policy, said.

"Support that may help to relieve the constant pressure on therapeutic radiography staff, particularly when the profession is suffering from a growing recruitment crisis, is much appreciated."

Tim Farron MP, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy, commented: “The UK spends a mere 5% of our cancer budget on radiotherapy services, whereas in most developed countries on the European continent this figure is up to 11%. 

"Radiotherapy is a relatively cheap treatment when compared with chemotherapy and other treatments including immunotherapy, often costing a few thousand pounds to cure patients and therefore the economic case is absolutely compelling. 

"The fact that nearly 24,000 people are missing out on radiotherapy suggests that several thousand people a year could be dying or suffering unnecessarily. It is particularly shocking that some of these preventable deaths are occurring because NHS England aren’t commissioning NHS trusts to allow them to use existing machines to their full level of capability. This campaign will raise public awareness of the amazing recent developments in radiotherapy and the dedicated skilled workforce that are ensuring more patients with cancer survive each year”.

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