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Health written question – answered on 7th July 2011.

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Photo of John Leech John Leech Liberal Democrat, Manchester, Withington

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what assessment he has made of the levels of support which will be required by commissioners in order to commission radiotherapy services;

(2) what steps his Department is taking to support the implementation of intensity-modulated radiation therapy in at least one centre per network by 2012;

(3) what proportion of patients receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer were treated using intensity-modulated radiation therapy in the latest period for which figures are available.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow The Minister of State, Department of Health

“The Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2011/12” sets out that, to improve outcomes from radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients, commissioners should develop local plans to ensure that access rates to radiotherapy and the use of advanced radiotherapy techniques, such as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), are appropriate for their populations. The National Cancer Action Team has been working with providers to support the development of IMRT services and, at this time, 20 of the 28 cancer networks have at least one provider offering IMRT.

It is not possible to identify IMRT from other forms of radiotherapy treatment within the Hospital Episode Statistics available to the Department. The Department is working with the national health service to implement a national radiotherapy dataset, and the dataset project team is working with providers to improve collection of data on IMRT.

Release of the radiotherapy dataset is governed by the Radiotherapy Clinical Information Group (RCIG). RCIG has decided to produce a report on the dataset collection for 2009-10, which is due for publication shortly. RCIG is also planning to release the full dataset via the cancer commissioning toolkit (CCT) by the end of the year. The CCT gives commissioners access to high quality data about cancer services across the treatment pathway, allows providers and commissioners to benchmark their performance against one another and supports commissioners to deliver cancer services for local populations.

To support the commissioning of radiotherapy services in the reformed NHS, we will shortly be publishing a transitional update to the Cancer Commissioning Guidance, first published in January 2009. This best practice document sets out key issues and questions that commissioners and cancer network teams will wish to take into consideration when assessing local health needs and when reviewing cancer services. The guidance is intended to complement the CCT.

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