MPs have today written to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care urging him to prioritise the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for radiotherapy professionals and to take steps to boost radiotherapy capacity to save lives. In the letter from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Radiotherapy the MPs set out that they have received reports that ‘patients are now demanding that the clinicians wear PPE’ and expressed concern that ‘… some radiotherapy centres have no PPE and little priority has been given to this work force and patient group….’ . The letter also highlights that the demand for radiotherapy services is rising sharply as surgical options for cancer treatment are reduced due to the Covid-19 response and clinicians are moving some patients away from chemotherapy, which tends to reduce immunity, to radiotherapy. To help meet this increased demand the MPs urge the Minister to sweep away existing bureaucratic barriers that are restricting the number of centres able to offer advanced techniques that allow a greater throughput of patients, funding for IT and innovative practical solutions and to further boost radiotherapy capacity by harnessing spare capacity in the private sector.
Chair of the APPG, Tim Farron MP said: “This is a particularly worrying time for cancer patients and the radiotherapy professionals who treat them. The need for a proper supply of PPE is clear. Both the clinicians and the patients are at unacceptable risk without it. I urge the Secretary of State to act on this and the other matters we have raised. Revised NHS guidelines for cancer treatment are recommending fewer hospital visits to reduce risk for cancer patients. We know that a change to internal NHS tariffs would allow clinicians to provide more advanced treatments that do exactly that. We call on the Secretary of State to make these simple interventions now and protect cancer patients who do not need the anxiety of a choice between delayed treatment or additional risks posed by coronavirus.”
Professor Pat Price, chair of the charity Action Radiotherapy and founder of the Radiotherapy4Life Campaign and who advises the APPG said, “The lack of PPE is creating a morally outrageous position for my colleagues who work in close proximity to vulnerable patients every day. Do they continue on without the PPE putting themselves and other patients at risk, or do they stand back until the equipment is delivered which risks causing further life threatening delay to cancer patients?’
The extra pressure caused by the urgent need to cope with the pandemic has laid bare problems we have highlighted for years. Of course fighting the virus is the priority. But cancer patients will be experiencing the shock waves of this long after the immediate crisis has passed until we have a vaccine, so it is vital we do everything we can now to ensure that radiotherapy can save as many lives as possible’.