Cancer treatment will be compromised by closure of training programme at Portsmouth

Published: 29 March 2019 Educators

The decision by the University of Portsmouth to close the BSc (Hons) radiotherapy and oncology course has been slammed by the organisation which represents the healthcare professionals who deliver life-saving cancer treatment.

In a letter to the university, Richard Evans, the CEO of the Society of Radiographers, said that abandoning the training programme will affect the “public of Portsmouth and the whole of the south of England, who will see their prospects of cancer treatment compromised by the closure. I doubt that these people had a say in the decision.”

The course, which is closing from 2020, trained therapeutic radiographers, the NHS staff who are part of the team which plans and delivers radiotherapy, which is used to treat many types of cancer.

"There is a national shortage of radiographers and the time from cancer diagnosis to treatment is getting longer because of under-investment in training and recruiting the professionals who are the only people dedicated to the delivery of radiotherapy,” Richard Evans said.

“The small workforce and the limited number of training programmes available across the UK, is causing great concern at national level. To close the programme at Portsmouth is devastating," he continued.

“Even more frustrating is the work of the team at the university has been critically successful in increasing the profile of therapeutic radiography and this has resulted in increased recruitment to the course.

”The fact that these prospective students are now to be disappointed is a huge blow, not only for the individuals concerned, but also for the inevitable loss to the profession of therapeutic radiographers and consequently, the damage to cancer care.”

The Society of Radiographers is asking for clarity about what will happen to their members employed at the university and the people who provide clinical placement support for students in local radiotherapy departments.

Richard Evans also queried whether radiotherapy centres and hospitals along the south coast have been consulted because “the closure of this recruitment source in 2020 will present a very significant challenge for these services to continue to recruit adequately to provide vital radiotherapy to cancer patients.”

The Society is asking for a meeting with the university and Health Education England (HEE) to “understand the reasoning and, if nothing else, seek to learn from the unfortunate turn of events in Portsmouth.”