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Forewords

A large proportion of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will receive radiotherapy at some point during their treatment pathway.

The treatment and care of those receiving radiotherapy will be managed by therapeutic radiographers, whose roles have emerged over the last decade allowing them to work at Advanced and Consultant practitioner levels. 

This new and exciting initiative from Prostate Cancer UK to work collaboratively with the Society and College of Radiographers has produced an inspiring document that highlights how therapeutic radiographers working at these advanced levels can make a real difference to the patient experience. 

But, as always, more can be done and the recommendations within this report will energise specialist radiographers and help service managers to continue and expand this emerging practice.

My thanks go to all those who contributed to this report and for those who provided the case reports, that helped illustrate this document.

And a special thank you to Prostate Cancer UK who commissioned this report, a first of its kind, and to Hazel Colyer and the project team for producing such an inspirational document that will be used to further improve the patient experience and to encourage the development of prostate/urology specialist roles in all radiotherapy departments. 

Sheila Hassan, President, Society of Radiographers 

 

It’s a fact. More men will receive radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer than any other treatment modality. This comes as a direct result of an increase in the numbers of men being diagnosed with the disease, continuous advances in radiotherapy treatment and mounting calls to match levels of radiotherapy being delivered internationally - from 38% of all patients with cancer receiving radiotherapy in England, to around 50%.

In our goal to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life, we know the critical role that health professionals play in men’s diagnosis, treatment and care, crucially influencing both their health outcomes and experiences. For those men that opt for radiotherapy as a primary treatment, they spend a significant and intense period of their clinical journey in the radiotherapy centre. While in the past these patients would have been under the care of therapeutic radiographers in general oncology roles, we are seeing a new development that means more men are under the care of an advanced practitioner employed as a prostate or urology site-specialist. 

We commissioned this report to better understand these new site-specialist roles because we believe, like the many radiotherapy centre managers who created these roles, that prostate experts in therapeutic radiography can improve experiences and outcomes for men who undergo radiotherapy treatment. 

This report comes on the back of the Independent Cancer Taskforce’s newly published cancer strategy for England (2015-2020),1 which, sitting under its six strategic priorities, calls for patients to have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or other key worker to help coordinate care. Earlier this year we published worrying findings about the urology nurse specialist workforce which is facing a future crisis in terms of supply meeting demand. Thankfully, in radiotherapy, the outlook is better. From this research, we are pleased to see a growth in the number of prostate / urology site-specialists in the UK, and the trend is moving in a positive direction with more centres confirming plans to appoint a prostate or urology site specialist within the next three years. Given what we know about the pressures of urology nursing, there is potential for more radiographer site-specialists to take on this key worker role for radiotherapy patients.

From this research it is clear: we need more evidence of how these new roles benefit patients in terms of outcomes and experiences as well as of efficiencies that they create for the NHS. For those embarking on creating these new roles in centres, we urge you to look at the learning and resources collated through this project and to ensure monitoring and evaluation is built into any new post. In the current economic climate, we need to demonstrate the return on investment, both social and financial. 

This project was not just about research; the new online forum on prostate radiotherapy will provide a valuable resource and space for radiographers with an interest in prostate cancer to come together to share practice, learn from one another and to set-up joint initiatives in researching and advancing developments in the field.  The foundations are already in place for these new roles; success will be building on what’s already there to ensure that men who have to undergo radiotherapy treatment, whether curative or palliative, access the best care and support possible.

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive, Prostate Cancer UK

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