AXREM refreshes radiotherapy manifesto with calls for new strategy

To close gaps in cancer survivability, the imaging trade association is calling for a new governmental radiotherapy strategy

Published: 27 November 2023 Radiotherapy

Imaging trade associaton AXREM has refreshed its radiotherapy manifesto to reiterate its calls for a radiotherapy strategy, increased funding in radiotherapy, and improved access to radiotherapy treatment.

In order to do achieve these goals, a new radiotherapy strategy must address the capacity, staffing and funding issues, and how this impacts patient care and outcomes, AXREM said.

The report, titled 'Manifesto for Radiotherapy: Driving towards a modern world-class radiotherapy service,' was published by the trade association for imaging and radiotherapy technology providers earlier this month. 

Access to radiotherapy services varies regionally, impacting potential usage, while advanced radiotherapy techniques are sometimes restricted. This can be due to policies, limited regional access, or lack of sustainable funding for newer technology; the number of linear accelerators in the UK per million is 25% lower than in comparative European countries.

Dan Baines, AXREM radiotherapy convenor, said: “My AXREM colleagues see and experience day in day out the issues facing radiotherapy departments and patients throughout the country.

“The expertise, passion and dedication present in NHS radiotherapy departments is immense, yet the ability to deliver world class leading radiotherapy is held back by lack of sustainable funding, no clear vision on the adoption of new techniques which impacts not only the radiotherapy workforce but also patient experience, outcomes and ultimately survival."

Sustainable, ringfenced funding

NHS hospitals are forced to replace outdated radiotherapy equipment with squeezed capital equipment budgets as central funding is sporadic and unpredictable, according to the manifesto. Sustainable, ringfenced, central funding for radiotherapy is key to ensuring national investment in up-to-date equipment, AXREM explained.

The UK currently lags behind the European average in survival for nine out of the ten most common cancers. However, radiotherapy as a primary treatment or combined with surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy, has the potential to improve cancer outcomes, it added.

“Technology is moving fast,” the association said. “The way we target and deliver radiotherapy treatment to tumours is changing, positively impacting the patient experience and overall outcomes. These advancements in delivery have increased cure rates with fewer side effects and enabled shorter treatment courses effectively delivered over just a few days.”

Refreshed manifesto

The association outlined three key goals for its manifesto:

1. Strategy

The UK government should appoint a national radiotherapy Tsar and establish a national radiotherapy cancer plan containing short, medium, and long-term objectives, including models to establish how to adopt new IT and software and new treatment methods. Current cancer pathways should be reviewed, to link up screening and diagnostic programmes to cancer treatment plans.

2. Funding

The UK government should increase the national budget from the current 5 per cent to 6.5 per cent annually, develop clear models for replacement cycles through central funding, and create a strategy within the NHS for technology appraisal. 

A comprehensive review of radiotherapy tariffs, considering whole treatment and new methods, alongside a funding plan to increase the workforced needed across all disciplines by 10 per cent, will be required to implement effective cancer treatment, AXREM continued.

3. Improved access

AXREM is calling for the UK government to ensure radiotherapy can always be a patient’s
treatment choice, where clinically appropriate by expanding treatment provision for patients in rural and urban areas. 

The association launched its refreshed manifesto at a small parliamentary event hosted by Tim FarronLiberal Democract MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy.

Mr Farron said: “Radiotherapy is already established as the most cost effective, least invasive cancer treatment available. The radiotherapy industry will be responsible for taking this technology further and faster - saving the NHS vital cancer funding, making treatment more patient friendly, and improving the UK's shocking cancer survival rates. I endorse the AXREM manifesto for radiotherapy so that these aims are made reality.”

Read the full manifesto here.