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Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has unveiled plans to invest up to £150 million in procuring a new cutting-edge ‘proton beam therapy’ radiotherapy cancer service

Proton beam therapy (PBT) is a type of radiotherapy, which uses a precision high-energy beam of particles to destroy cancer cells.

The treatment is particularly suitable for complex childhood cancers. PBT increases success rates and reduces side-effects, such as deafness, loss of IQ and secondary cancers.  At present, people in need of proton beam therapy are sent abroad – either to Switzerland or the USA. However, for many patients with cancer, travelling abroad is inappropriate because it is an additional worry and they require other treatments alongside proton beam therapy.

At a speech to the Britain Against Cancer Conference later, Andrew Lansley will announce that up to 1,500 patients a year would benefit from the establishment of a new National Proton Beam Therapy Service.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

We want to make sure that cancer services in England are world class and that NHS patients receive the best quality treatments that are available.

“This investment will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the fight against cancer. This is great news for patients, as well as for our scientists and academics who are always looking to push those boundaries further.

“For too long our cancer survival rates have lagged behind other comparable countries. I am determined that we do everything we can to change that and this new investment will help significantly.

“This new equipment will particularly help children who suffer from cancer. They will receive better quality treatment and their chances of experiencing side effects such hearing loss and reduced IQ will be minimised.”

Significantly, the Government is considering the use of public capital in assessing the options for financing this new service, which would mark a departure from the use of public-private finance initiatives to secure large-scale health projects, which do not offer taxpayers good value in the long-term.

Proton beam therapy offers a more targeted way of treating cancer without damaging critical tissues. For patients, especially children, with highly specific types of cancer that occur in the brain and near the spine, Proton Beam Therapy can be better than conventional radiotherapy as it precisely targets the tumour, giving better dose distribution and not harming critical tissues.

Andrew Lansley made a commitment to the programme last year when he pledged over £50 million across the Spending Review period to allow up to 400 high priority patients to be treated abroad while we develop the business case to establish a national service here.

The new services will be able to treat up to 1,500 patients per year and would mean the 400 high priority patients who would otherwise have to go abroad for treatment can be treated in this country. It would also begin to expand treatment to a much wider range of cancer patients.

The Department has been working with three sites as potential providers of the service: the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation trust and University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust. The business case needs to be completed before the Department can determine the final number of facilities and will be subject to approval.

A full and robust business case to ensure the service provides value for taxpayer money is currently being developed.

Today, the first annual report of Improving Outcomes – a Strategy for Cancer is published. It provides an update on the progress of implementing the Strategy, which came out in January and which set a bold ambition to save 5,000 more lives by 2014/15.

The number of cancer cases continues to rise, but progress is being made on reducing mortality. We know that if more people ate better, drank less and smoked less we could prevent 40 per cent of cancers. As part of a wide range of activity, we are consulting on plain packaging for cigarettes and have expanded cancer screening. A national bowel cancer campaign will be launched in January.


Written by Scott Buckler
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 16:04

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