New system for radiotherapy is in ‘chaos’ and ultimately puts lives at risk

Seven out of every ten local health bodies have no one in charge of vital radiotherapy treatments, damning new analysis reveals.

Some 70 percent of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) say they have no named person responsible for ensuring it has access to sufficient treatment capacity for radiotherapy.

Under existing NHS plans, commissioning for radiotherapy services should have been devolved to local health bodies from April this year.

But campaigners say the shocking figures show the new system is in “chaos”, ultimately putting lives at risk.

The research, conducted by the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign and Radiotherapy UK, also reveals that 70 percent of ICB’s said they did not have internal plans to ensure the regular replacement of radiotherapy machinery.

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Professor Pat Price, co-founder of the Catch Up With Cancer campaign and a leading oncologist, said: “Our analysis shows that chaos and bureaucracy are strangling one of our most important weapons in the fight against record cancer waiting times.

“It beggars belief that over two-thirds of local health bodies have no one in charge of radiotherapy, the second most curative cancer treatment, and most cost-effective backlog-busting solution we have.”

Health Ministers insist responsibility sits with local systems.

But Prof Price added: “These Freedom of Information requests confirm that these local systems are a patchwork of arrangements just adding more to the chaos. There is no overall radiotherapy plan, no sign of investment and no hope of tackling the cancer crisis without a radical change.

Cancer treatment waits continue at record lengths, radiotherapy is in crisis and there is no plan in sight to invest in the technology and machinery best placed to clear waiting lists.”

The findings come as ministers face fresh demands to boost radiotherapy funding as new figures revealed more than 18,000 cancer patients face treatment delays.

New NHS England data shows that in the first three months of this year 18,193 people with cancer had to wait more than the 62 day target for treatment after being given an urgent GP referral.

Prof Price said if the current trend continues the figure could soar to 43,000 by the end of this year.

It could rise to a staggering 122,000 in 2024, she added.

The Daily Express is campaigning for a major boost in radiotherapy funding. Our crusade is backed by Radiotherapy UK and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign.

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