Health: Radiotherapy

House of Lords written question – answered on 20th July 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they plan to address the variation in the provision of radiotherapy between English cancer networks; and

What discussions they have had with primary care trusts about commissioning radiotherapy on behalf of their population and in the light of the recommendations from the recent National Radiotherapy Advisory Group report; and

What guidance they have given to commissioning primary care trusts to (a) reduce the variation in provision of radiotherapy, and (b) achieve an average of 54,000 fractions/million population by 2016 in the light of the recommendations from the recent National Radiotherapy Advisory Group report.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

There have been no discussions with primary care trusts (PCTs) about commissioning radiotherapy in light of the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group (NRAG) report nor has any guidance been issued to PCTs.

Ministers have asked that the issues and recommendations in the NRAG report are considered as part of Cancer Reform Strategy. The NRAG report was shared with the various strategy working groups so that they could consider and advise the National Cancer Director on the implications of these recommendations in more detail. Work on the Cancer Reform Strategy is still ongoing. The strategy is due to be published by the end of the year. However, as the report is not just about increasing radiotherapy capacity but also about improving current productivity from existing resources and reducing existing variation in current provision, it is important for the National Health Service locally to consider this report in parallel with the work on the Cancer Reform Strategy.

The National Cancer Director therefore shared the report with cancer networks on 11 May 2007 so that they could start to consider the local implications of what it is saying; for example, so that they could consider if they are meeting the needs of their local populations and if they can improve current productivity. In addition, PCT chief executives were informed that the report had been issued and that the National Cancer Director had sent it with a letter to cancer networks. This notification was done via the department's chief executive's bulletin which alerts chief executives to publications, circulars and announcements from the department. It is emailed to NHS chief executives, including PCTs, as well as council chief executives and directors of social services. Issue 370 of the bulletin (18 to 24 May 2007) included details about the NRAG report.

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