MP contests health minister's assessment of laser treatment

Posted on Feb 17, 2012

Wells MP Tessa Munt was disbelieving of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's claim that one in four radiotherapy centres had machines capable of blasting tumours with high doses of radiation. She told the health czar's care minister, Paul Burstow, it was actually nearer to one in seven centres that had Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy.

Laying out her evidence in the House of Commons last week, Ms Munt revealed she had filed Freedom of Information requests with all 58 radiotherapy-equipped hospitals in the UK – with just Royal Shrewsbury failing to respond.

She said only seven centres in England and one in Scotland treated cancer patients with the advanced lasers – and only half of these had done the procedure enough times to comply with recommendations.

Mr Burstow stuck to his boss's claim that 25 per cent had the tools – despite being told it was probably 14 per cent, with just 8 per cent compliant.

Ms Munt championed constituent Kerry Dunn of Sandford, who was initially denied CyberKnife treatment, a branded form of the procedure. When the health authority finally relented, she was told her tumour was now too large for the procedure.

Mr Burstow said: "I very much welcome the opportunity presented by this debate to correct a number of inaccuracies that have appeared in the press on this subject. Claims have been made that patients are being denied life-saving treatments because of the lack of access to CyberKnife.

"Those claims are both inaccurate and alarming, and I think they must cause great anxiety to patients.

"The truth is that CyberKnife is not a form of treatment, but a brand name of a particular type of equipment that delivers stereotactic body radiotherapy or SBRT.

"It is not the only technology available."

He also cautioned that more clinical trials were needed to prove the treatment was better, less invasive and worth the cost.

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