£200million could replace UKs out-of-date radiotherapy machines, MPs insist

Just £200 million is enough to replace the UK’s out-of-date radiotherapy machines and help 50,000 cancer patients every year, MPs have insisted.

The “peanuts” investment would save countless lives, slash treatment and waiting times, helping to ease the NHS cancer backlog, they said.

MPs used a key parliamentary debate to press the need for more funding for radiotherapy – the “silver bullet” of cancer treatment – which languishes behind other countries.

The highly effective treatment is needed in four out of every 10 cancer cures.

International recommendations state that 53 to 60 percent of cancer patients should receive the treatment.

But in the UK only 27 percent got it in 2019, largely due to decades of underinvestment.

Conservative MP Selaine Saxby called for more funding, pointing out that radiotherapy only gets five percent of the UK’s entire cancer budget.

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She said that 74 radiotherapy treatment machines need to be replaced in the UK by the end of 2024.

“Radiotherapy is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet,” she said. “An investment of £200 million would update all of the machines due to go out of date by the end of next year benefitting an estimated 50,000 people a year.

“£45million invested in innovative technology such as surface-guided radiotherapy would reduce waiting times by 1.8 weeks nationwide. The use of AI could save clinicians two hours per patient.”

“If radiotherapy received between 10 to 12 percent of the cancer budget we could also invest in more machines we could bring ourselves up to international standards.”

She also warned of radiotherapy “desert areas” where patients have to take long journeys to reach a centre with a machine.

Only four percent of people in her North Devon constituency live within recommended travel distance, she said.

Labour MP Grahame Morris, who has twice survived cancer, urged the government to increase radiotherapy treatment capacity.

“We are not fully utilising the lifesaving potential of radiotherapy,” he warned.

“Radiotherapy is the most cost effective of the three main cancer treatments with a typical cost per cure ranging from £3,000 to £7,000, however, the lack of investment has left us lagging behind other countries,” he added.

New machines – which cost around £2.4million – can treat more patients more quickly.

Experts say it is money well spent, reducing the bill for each patient’s treatment to just £400.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said investing in radiotherapy equipment is hugely cost-effective.

Mr Farron told MPs: “All of this costs peanuts in comparison to equally worthy, vastly more expensive, drug treatments.”

He added: “A government that wanted to shift the dial quickly and do something long-term, of long-term value, that would have an impact in a short-term period of time and would cost, relatively speaking, very little – it’s an obvious no-brainer.”

Health Minister Will Quince offered a glimmer of hope that the government might be willing to focus more on radiotherapy.

He said: “Of course, we are striving wherever possible to reduce any necessity to travel any unreasonable distances and that’s where the government’s priorities continue to be to bolster the specialist workforce and ensure ever-expanded equipment, including the investment in new radiotherapy machines.”

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The debate adds further weight to the Daily Express Radiotherapy Campaign which is demanding new machines to handle rising cancer rates, satellite centres to slash journey times and more radiotherapists to break the cancer backlog.

To do this the service will need a £1billion boost over five years. Our crusade is backed by Radiotherapy UK and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign.

Manchester United and England legend Bryan Robson, 66, who survived cancer after lifesaving radiotherapy in Thailand, is also supporting us.

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