Cancer crisis: Radiotherapy plan to save lives | Politics | News


Football legend Bryan Robson has urged the government and NHS to put radiotherapy at the heart of efforts to tackle the UK’s cancer crisis.

The former England star, who survived the disease after lifesaving radiotherapy in Thailand, believes investing in the treatment would make the UK’s cancer services “the envy of the world”.

He has given his backing to a 10-year plan that experts claim could significantly cut waiting times and improve how long and how well patients live.  

The ex-Manchester United skipper and cancer campaigner, said: “Radiotherapy saved my life. It’s given me the priceless gift of time and memories with my friends and family.

“I strongly believe every UK cancer patient that needs radiotherapy should have access to a world-class service.”

Mr Robson, 67, who last year gave his backing to the Daily Express crusade to boost Radiotherapy, added: “Decision makers choosing to invest in and support radiotherapy services across the UK will quite simply save lives. I want to live in a country with cancer services that are the envy of the world – and radiotherapy can play a major part.”

His rallying cry comes as NHS England data shows that 4 in 10 cancer patients are waiting longer than the recommended 62 days to start their first treatment. 

The 62-day treatment target was last achieved in 2015 in England, 2009 in Northern Ireland, 2012 in Scotland and 2010 in Wales.

Research shows that Radiotherapy is a lifesaving, cost-effective treatment needed in about 50 per cent of cancer cases and in 40 per cent of cancer cures. 

The plan – World-class radiotherapy in the UK: Right Patient, Right Treatment, Right Time – has been led by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy.  

It calls for a new National Plan for Radiotherapy, equal access to high quality, personalised treatment and to address the 600-person workforce shortfall.   

The report sets out how the UK currently lags behind other similar European countries.  Despite international estimates that 52 to 53 per cent of UK cancer patients should receive radiotherapy, currently only 24 to 27 per cent of patients in England do. 

Access is highly variable, with several parts of the UK classed as radiotherapy “deserts”, with patients making long, expensive journeys for treatment.  

The UK remains near the bottom of international tables for cancer survival and experts in the report warn that without clear planning and investment in radiotherapy, this is unlikely to improve.

Professor Pat Price – Academic Clinical Oncologist at Imperial College London, Chair of Radiotherapy UK and co-founder of Catch Up With Cancer Campaign, said: “It’s time to realise the immense potential of radiotherapy by harnessing proven technical advances and innovation to improve patient outcomes. 

“Let us prioritise this cost-effective and curative treatment, where a modest investment could yield a huge leap in progress. If we do this, the world will watch, and we will all be empowered.” 

Professor Mark Lawler, Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast and Chair of the Lancet Oncology European Groundshot Commission, said: “We do not have a choice – if we don’t implement such a forward-thinking plan, we are letting down not only current cancer patients, but also the cancer patients of the future – they will not forgive us if we fail them. So let’s act. Now!”.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy, said: “Sadly, we are overlooking radiotherapy as a major player in getting ahead of the UK’s accelerating cancer crisis.

“There is currently no plan to encourage the next generation of therapeutic radiographers, physicists, engineers and clinical oncologists needed to meet staff shortages. We have fewer treatment machines than our European counterparts.

“Many patients do not have fair access to this treatment and the improvements in technology that could improve how long and well patients live.

“We urgently need to focus now on a long-term sustainable National Plan for Radiotherapy to improve cancer survival rates, handle a growing number of cancer cases and close the care gap.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to improving services for people living with cancer. The NHS is seeing and treating record numbers of people for cancer, more people are being diagnosed at an earlier stage than ever before and cancer survival is the highest it has ever been.

“From 2016-2021, we invested £162 million to enable the replacement or upgrade of around 100 radiotherapy treatment machines. We have also invested in 153 new Community Diagnostic Centres to allow people to get tests, checks and scans in convenient locations.

“We know there is more to do – our Major Conditions Strategy will set out how we will improve cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”



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