Proton beam therapy to be made available in England

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Government has announced plans to introduce a new radiotherapy treatment to England, saving patients the long trip abroad they currently need to take to receive it on the NHS.

Proton beam therapy uses charged particles instead of X-rays to deliver radiotherapy.

The beams can target tumours more accurately, while causing less damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Although it is not suitable for the treatment of all types of cancer, proton beam therapy can help boost treatment success rates, reduce side-effects, and help patients to recover more quickly.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley is due to outline his plans to bring the therapy to the NHS in a speech to the Britain Against Cancer Conference.

He said the £150 million investment could benefit as many as 1,500 patients every year.

Some patients have previously been sent abroad to receive the treatment on the NHS, which is available at three centres in Switzerland, Florida and Oklahoma, under a scheme unveiled in April 2008.

Since then, around 80 people have received the treatment overseas, with trips sometimes lasting between eight and 10 weeks.

Funding for the scheme has recently increased and the Government expects to see numbers rise to around 400 a year by 2013/14.

The sites being considered to offer the new treatment are the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Lansley said: "We want to make sure that cancer services in England are world class and that NHS patients receive the best quality treatments that are available.

"This investment will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the fight against cancer which is great news for patients, as well as for our scientists and academics who are always looking to push those boundaries further."

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "We strongly welcome the commitment to invest £150 million in proton beam therapy facilities in England. This will mean that patients will be able to access the best treatment for them, without having to go abroad, which will improve outcomes and reduce anxiety.

"We have been campaigning to improve radiotherapy services in England, to match the best in the world, and ensure no-one misses out on cutting edge radiotherapy. Today's announcement is a big step towards achieving that goal."

Copyright Press Association 2011