A British Medical Journal report says that staff shortages in radiotherapy units across the country are delaying vital treatment to cancer patients and thus reducing their chances of surviving the condition.
"Radiotherapy services in the UK are inferior to those in most developed countries and indeed many poorer countries," said David Dodwell, a clinical oncologist and author of the BMJ report. "Unfortunately the here and now of this is in terms of radiotherapy capacity in the UK in many centres in the UK is a real problem." This means that there is a considerable delay between referral and the start of the treatment, which could prove fatal in several cancers like cervical cancer and patients with recurring head and neck tumors. Breast cancer patients have a 60 percent chance of relapse if the delay between surgery and radiotherapy was more than 8 weeks, Dr Dodwell said. "Continued and sustained investment in all the elements that go up to make the NHS radiotherapy services is required if the UK is to have a modern service able to deliver the best treatment to patients in a timely way," said Dr Michael Williams of the Royal College of Radiologists. The charity Breast Cancer Care also took note of this report and said that it was fast turning into a national crisis. "The priority must be to ensure that all cancer patients get the treatment they need, when they need it. Government must make it a priority for this to happen," said Clara Mackay, director of policy at the charity.