• Radiotherapy4Life campaign

    More than 360,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year. I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected, and I believe all patients have a right to the best possible care.

    Radiotherapy technology in the UK has improved significantly over the past 20 years and around four in 10 of all cancer patients are now treated with radiotherapy. However, I am concerned by analysis from Action Radiotherapy which finds that as many as 20,000 cancer patients are missing out on vital radiotherapy each year due to underfunding and management issues in service provision.

    The NHS Long Term Plan identifies cancer as a clinical priority over the next 10 years. It sets out its aims for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, includes a specific commitment for faster, smarter and more effective radiotherapy, and greater access to specialist expertise and knowledge in the treatment of cancers. The plan also sets objectives to commission the new Proton Beam facilities in London and Manchester, and to reform the specialised commissioning payments for radiotherapy hypofractionation to support upgrades.

    While the aspirations for improving cancer services are welcome, I remain concerned that our NHS will continue to be held back by cuts and staff shortages. There are 100,000 vacancies across the NHS and Cancer Research UK has warned of chronic shortages in the diagnostic workforce, yet Ministers have delayed setting out a workforce plan.

    Nine years of cuts and the most significant financial squeeze in its history has pushed our health service to the brink and I believe it is patients who are paying the price. The national cancer treatment target has repeatedly been missed for the last five years and cancer performance hit a record low in 2018.

    I believe a credible strategy to support and recruit the cancer workforce for the future must be at the heart of the NHS plan. Ministers should fully fund the NHS and provide more resources for training and education. I will press Ministers at every opportunity to improve the provision of radiotherapy services and ensure that patients receive the best possible treatment and support.