SoR celebrates report setting out framework for ‘world-class’ radiotherapy service

Parliamentary group and charity Radiotherapy UK have worked with representatives across the radiotherapy community to create the report

Published: 06 February 2024 Radiotherapy

The SoR has welcomed a new report from the parliamentary radiotherapy group, which sets out a framework for ‘world-class’ service in the UK.

Titled ‘Vision for Radiotherapy’, the report was released on Tuesday (6 February) by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy in conjunction with charity Radiotherapy UK.

This evidence-based document sets out a framework for developing a world-class service for radiotherapy over the next 10 years. 

SoR has welcomed the focus on radiotherapy’s role in providing care for a range of patients with cancer and the need to develop, fund and deliver a comprehensive 10-year radiotherapy specific workforce plan.

The report was officially launched in Parliament on 6 February, during an event attended by SoR president Dave Pilborough, executive director of professional policy Charlotte Beardmore, and professioanl officer for radiotherapy Spencer Goodman. 

Record waiting times 

The report comes as cancer patients face record wait times for treatment in the UK. By 2040, the number of people in the UK with cancer is estimated to increase by one-third, but UK patient survival sits near the bottom of international cancer survival tables. 

Dave Pilborough, SoR president, said: “We welcome this report and the opportunity to focus on equity of access to radiotherapy across the four nations - this is underpinned by the highly skilled, multidisciplinary workforce striving to deliver best care despite challenges with workforce shortages.”

According to the report, the therapeutic radiographer workforce, along with physicist and clinical oncologist colleagues, continues to be under significant pressure due to rising workload, increasing complexity of treatments being planned and delivered, and high staff vacancy rates.

Lack of planning 

Staff shortages are affecting the ability of departments to use the full capacity of their planning and treatment equipment, the report added. This has an impact on the timeliness of delivering patient care, the patient experience, and the morale of radiographers currently in post.

Radiotherapy cures cancer and is the most cost-effective cancer treatment, the report explains. It is needed by one in two cancer patients and contributes to cure in 40 per cent of cases.

In the UK, radiotherapy has high training standards and enjoys extremely high degrees of quality and safety – however, a lack of long-term planning and investment in radiotherapy in the UK has led to piecemeal implementation of the new technologies and innovations.

Key recommendations 

The vision outlines six key areas of action to improve patient outcomes with higher cure rates and fewer side effects.

  1. Leadership: Establish an independent UK-wide planning and strategic group supported by healthcare commissioners across the four nations to inform long-term policy and investment.
  2. Access: Ensure equal access to radiotherapy across the four nations of the UK by 2034, conduct a review of waiting time targets to improve timely access to radiotherapy, and ensure patients have access to late-effects support services. 
  3. Workforce: Immediately put in place a plan to close the radiotherapy professionals’ workforce gap, currently estimated at 600, and deliver a 10-year radiotherapy-specific workforce plan that creates a sustainable, flexible workforce.
  4. Data: Develop a single integrated data source from radiotherapy providers, which can drive improvement in patient outcomes.
  5. Research: Implement an integrated radiotherapy research strategy.
  6. Investment: Deliver long-term investment attached to the national plan alongside a reimbursement system that funds radiotherapy machines and technologies, including software and AI.

The report concluded: “By delivering a UK national radiotherapy plan based on the vision outlined in this document, the UK has the potential to develop a truly world class radiotherapy service by 2034. Action is now needed, and urgently.”

Read the full report here.