Today’s news of NHS England’s £130M investment over two years in radiotherapy equipment should be welcomed as a huge step forward in the provision of state of the art Radiotherapy Services for the NHS in England but also needs to be tempered with a level of caution for several reasons, the main ones for me are the lack of detail around an ongoing funded replacement programme, both for the units being replaced in this initiative (10 – 12 years from now) as well as the machines that have not been included in this programme as they have not reached the crucial replacement age yet but could be 5-8 years old currently.
Figures released in February 2016 stated that 63% of 111 English Trusts had at least one treatment unit older than 10 years and 21% of linear accelerators were in the same position, so what has been picked up by this investment programme and what still needs to be upgraded or replaced?
Have we learned nothing from the centrally funded MRI replacement programme of the early 2000’s where the government passed funding responsibilities back to the Trusts from 2007 and the units now due to be replaced are competing with all the other equipment pressures within the Trusts and we end up with the same issue of outdated equipment but 10 years down the line?
The other concern relates to Workforce shortages and skill mix which have been well publicised by the Royal College of Radiologists in the press already.
Pro rata, the 5-year investment programme of £39M for radiotherapy equipment and £11M for staffing announced by the Scottish Government in March 2016 appears to be a better developed and well thought through strategy.
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