Location of proton beam facilities announced

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cutting-edge proton beam therapy units will be located in London and Manchester, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has announced.

The NHS will invest up to £250 million in the new facilities, which will benefit around 1,500 patients a year.

Based at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust Hospital in Manchester and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, they will reach full capacity by 2017.

Proton beam therapy, a type of radiotherapy, uses a precision high-energy beam of particles to destroy cancer cells.

The treatment is particularly suitable for complex childhood cancers, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects.

It is already available on the NHS for suitable patients, but involves travel abroad.

Until the new facilities are built, the NHS will continue to fund patients in need of proton beam therapy to go either to Switzerland or the USA for treatment.

According to the Department of Health, by 2014/15 the NHS will be spending £30 million per year sending up to 400 patients overseas.

"Developing a national proton beam therapy service is vital to ensuring our cancer facilities are world class. We have always said that it is patient outcomes which matter, and to get the best for patients we must always be looking to push the boundaries," said Lansley.

Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, warmly welcomed the news.

"Proton beam therapy has important benefits over conventional radiotherapy for patients with several types of cancer, such as brain tumours in children. This announcement will mean that patients can access the best treatments for them without having to travel abroad, and that the UK is able to offer the most up to date treatments," he said

Professor Johnson pointed to the charity's campaign for renewed focus on UK radiotherapy services.

"We want to see improvements to radiotherapy services across the UK, to match the best in the world, and ensure no-one misses out on cutting-edge treatment.

"Today's announcement shows that progress is being made towards achieving that goal."