Radiotherapy access uneven in U.K.

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There are marked geographical variations in patients' access to radiotherapy, and also important differences in treatment capacity, across England, according to a Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) survey published in the July edition of Clinical Oncology.

Lead author Michael Williams, MD, vice president of the RCR, wrote that radiotherapy is a component of high-quality modern cancer care, playing a role in curative and also in palliative treatments. The survey highlights the crucial relationship between available treatment capacity and patterns of practice with reduced access and numbers of treatments per patient where that capacity is inadequate.

"It has been known for some time that socially deprived patients have worse outcomes for a range of cancers," said Jane Barrett, MD, dean of the RCR's faculty of Clinical Oncology. "This research shows that access to radiotherapy varies across the U.K. and is affected by deprivation. It is likely that deprived patients present later with more advanced tumors, which are more difficult to treat. Further research will be necessary to establish ways of improving treatment and outcomes for such patients."

"English Strategic Health Authorities and health authorities in the devolved U.K. countries should consider the findings of this survey in their ongoing reviews of radiotherapy services, and we will continue to work with health services throughout the U.K. to ensure that new resources for workforce and treatment capacity are targeted on areas where there is inadequate access/service," Barrett said.