Cancer patients lose out as projects stall

Posted on Jul 25, 2011

GWENT health watchdogs fear cancer patients needing radiotherapy are losing out because of a lack of progress on two key treatment projects.

First proposed in 2007, a satellite radiotherapy unit to take pressure off in-demand radiotherapy facilities at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, has yet to be formally approved.

Despite two site option appraisals, a decision is still pending on a preferred location, the latest deadline passing in May.

Meanwhile, plans to introduce IMRT – Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, a more precise way of applying treatment, minimising damage to surrounding organs and tissue – have stalled too.

South Wales’ former NHS trusts were invited to suggest possible sites for the satellite unit, and in 2008 Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil was identified as the best option.

A further appraisal the following year however, identified Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, as the best option. But last year, Swansea’s Singleton Hospital was allowed to present a case, which Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council describes as “annoying” as accessibility to radiotherapy is more of a problem north and east of Cardiff.

In its latest newsletter the CHC states: “We were told the issue would be resolved when the outline business case was submitted in May. That didn’t happen.”

While funding for IMRTcompliant Linac (linear accelerator) machines, which deliver radiotherapy treatment, has been made available by the Welsh Government, the CHC understands that staffing and training to administer it is a financial stumbling block.

Velindre NHS Trust chief executive Simon Dean said the Welsh Government received a business case to expand radiotherapy capacity last August, containing “options for the location of additional linear accelerators, including on the Velindre Hospital site, in a satellite unit, or at Swansea.”

A response is awaited from the South Wales Cancer Network on a business case for IMRT.

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