Cancer Research UK 'concerned' by reports of radiotherapy delays

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has expressed concern at a Conservative report claiming that thousands of cancer patients are not receiving the radiotherapy treatment they need.

According to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the equipment which administers radiotherapy is not being used as much as it should be, meaning that up to 9,000 NHS cancer patients did not receive the treatment they needed last year.

The number of courses of treatment delivered per million people has barely increased since 2005 and currently stands at around 30,000 courses per year, despite government targets to increase this to 40,000 by 2010/11.

Catherine Foot, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, commented on the findings, noting that radiotherapy is required by half of all cancer patients.

"These delays are clearly unacceptable," she said. "We are very concerned that the longstanding legacy of underinvestment in radiotherapy has led to the current problems in service provision.

"Last year's Cancer Reform Strategy took some bold and important steps to turn this situation around but we know it will take some time until we see the positive effects of these measures. Cancer Research UK is also continuing to monitor this situation very closely."

The Conservatives' report also notes that there are large variations in the provision of radiotherapy between different hospitals and in the number of radiographers each hospital trust has.

While the north-west of England has 35 radiographers per 100,000 population, the east and south-east regions have just 25 per 100,000, and overall there is a shortage across the whole NHS.