Report on developing radiotherapy services in England
17 May 2007
London, UK. The National Radiotherapy Advisory Group has
published a report on meeting the needs for radiotherapy services in
England. The report says current reorganisation needs to be completed, but
that there is still a need to increase services to meet current and future
demand, there should be greater choice and there is a need for more
community based services.
The group was led by Professor Mike Richards,
the national cancer director, and Dr Michael Williams the vice president of
the Royal College of Radiologists.
The report acknowledges that
radiotherapy services have seen improvements, with double the number of
staff training to be radiographers and heavy investment in radiotherapy
However, the report also found that:
- the need for radiotherapy services was significantly underestimated
by planners 15-20 years ago;
- as a result, despite positive actions the Government has taken over
recent years, there is a significant gap in radiotherapy capacity (both
in terms of equipment and staff); and
- cancer incidence will increase further due to a more elderly
population over the next 10 years.
The report concludes that to get the best results for cancer patients
reorganisation of services must be completed. Centralisation of
specialist services is completed in line with improving outcomes
guidance and that patient convenience is improved where possible by
making more services available locally.
Patients’ preferences must be respected and high quality care delivered
across the country and to all groups within society. However, all services
should provide value for money.
The report says that reorganising services is only the first step in
cancer reform. Other improvements needed include:
- get better at raising public awareness of cancer symptoms so that
patients come forward as soon as they have concerns about possible
symptoms — this will help to identify cancers early when they are more
likely to be treatable;
- increase capacity in areas such as radiotherapy where waits for
treatment after surgery can be long;
- offer patients greater choice based on reliable information;
- provide more community-based care for patients at the end of their
lives so that they have greater choice about where they live and die.
Professor Mike Richards, national cancer director, said: "We have
doubled the number of staff training to be radiographers and invested
heavily in radiotherapy equipment. However, we need more capacity, both
in terms of staff and equipment. This report is very helpful in setting
out how this could be achieved both in terms of using what we already
have more effectively but also in planning better for the future.
problems that we are seeing now with radiotherapy stem from a failure of
planning 15-20 years ago. At that time experts predicted that radiotherapy
would not have a key role to play in cancer care in the future and that
demand would fall. As a result it was not an area prioritised by the NHS for
development and expansion.
"I am pleased that Ministers have taken this
report seriously. With immediate effect, they have committed £5 million of
capital funding to support novel training facilities recommended in the
report. They have also asked that I take the broader recommendations into
account as I develop the Cancer Reform Strategy, which will map the way
forward for cancer services in England, and that I bring the report to the
attention of cancer networks so that they can start to consider if the
services they are delivering are as productive as they could be."
The report can be downloaded (as a PDF file) from the UK Department of
Health website at: