Researchers urge Government to improve cancer treatment

Third from left: Dr Lisa Ashmore at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Radiotherapy © Parliament
Third from left: Dr Lisa Ashmore at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Radiotherapy

Researchers from Lancaster University have taken their demands for an overhaul in the provision of radiotherapy to Parliament.

Dr Lisa Ashmore from Lancaster Medical School, lead academic for the ground-breaking Gynae Cancer Narratives Project, was invited to London to give evidence to the government’s Inquiry into Radiotherapy and the Cancer Crisis.

“We mustn’t think of radiotherapy just in terms of equipment or patient numbers, but instead we need to look at the experience of people living with cancer,” said Dr Ashmore.

“It was great to have the opportunity to share our research and to make sure we use our findings to improve care for people in the future.”

The Gynae Cancer Narratives Project, which is based at Lancaster’s Health Innovation Campus, includes social scientists, clinical researchers, patients and practitioners from all over the North West who have been working together since 2019 to look at radiotherapy treatment for gynaecological cancer. The team has now published a book which is widely used by radiography specialists nationwide and continues to campaign for a more patient-centred approach to radiotherapy treatment.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Radiotherapy, chaired by Tim Farron MP, held the inquiry in response to warnings from clinicians that vital services are now “critically threatened” in the face of record waiting times and a huge cancer backlog.

MacMillan Cancer Support estimate that there are currently 3 million people living with cancer in the UK, predicted to rise to 4 million by 2030. Radiotherapy is one of the most cost-effective cancer treatments, curing patients for as little as £4,000-£7,000.

“This inquiry has found that decades of systematic under-funding and under-resourcing of radiotherapy means that the UK lags far behind comparable countries in the numbers of patients able to access life-saving radiotherapy treatments and the numbers of machines delivering radiotherapy per head of population,” said Tim Farron MP.

The enquiry’s recommendations include:

· An urgent Cancer Plan aiming to treat 500,000 cancer patients a year by 2040

· The Government to appoint an Independent Radiotherapy Leadership Group to organise the service at a national level

· A new national radiotherapy strategy to improve access to international standards

· A detailed and funded workforce plan.

· A national replacement programme for radiotherapy equipment

· Invest in a recruitment and retention strategy

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