Radiotherapy map raises access questions for NHS

Posted on Aug 08, 2011

Cancer patients in Yorkshire, parts of the Midlands and the North of England have less access to radiotherapy than those in Kent, Mersey and Gloucestershire, new data suggests.

Cancer patients in Yorkshire, parts of the Midlands and the North of England have less access to radiotherapy than those in Kent, Mersey and Gloucestershire, new data suggests.

Figures submitted by the 50 NHS radiotherapy facilities in England covering the period from April 2009 to March 2010 show variation in percentage of the population undergoing radiotherapy in different parts of the country.

Some of the variation can be explained by the fact that certain areas have higher levels of cancer than others and that some forms of cancer can be treated with fewer radiotherapy sessions. However, these factors do not account for all of the disparity, which may be the result of a lack of radiotherapy equipment or long waiting times.

While media attention in recent years has focused on access to cancer drugs, there is little awareness of the key role that radiotherapy plays in curing cancer. Last year a Cancer Research UK survey showed that only one in ten people know that radiotherapy helps to cure 40% of cancer patients. The charity has reported that only 38% of cancer patients in the country are getting radiotherapy, despite the fact that research suggests up to 50% may benefit.

Private hospitals have invested heavily in radiotherapy equipment in recent years. CancerPartnersUK's network of three independent cancer centres provides both image guided radiotherapy (IGRT) and intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) outside London, traditionally the only place where private radiotherapy was available.


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