The NHS is to invest £130m to upgrade or replace key equipment for treating cancer, and will announce new proposals to reorganise radiotherapy services across England this week.
The investment in linear accelerators, to be announced at NHS England’s annual general meeting today, follows a recommendation from the Independent Cancer Taskforce in July 2015. It said a programme of rolling replacement would enable more rapid implementation of new radiotherapy techniques and also suggested a centralised procurement process could be used for this. NHS England says it will use “the national purchasing power of the NHS” to get better prices and values.
The investment, spread over two years, will cover around half of the five year modernisation programme recommended by the taskforce and will pay for more than 100 replacements or upgrades of radiotherapy machines.
NHS England has not said how the hospitals receiving the new machines or upgrades will be selected. However, the last major investment in radiotherapy machines was in the early 2000s, and they are recommended to be replaced after 10 years and upgrades should be made after 5-6 years.
Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, said: “Modern [linear accelerators] and software will mean hundreds of thousands of patients across England will now benefit from huge advances in precision cancer treatment.”
Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK and leader of the taskforce, said: “Technological advances in recent years have been immense and this investment in state of the art equipment will change the face of cancer treatment across England.”
There were 134,000 radiotherapy episodes among NHS patients last year.
Later in the week NHS England will announce plans to reorganise radiotherapy services to improve access to specialist expertise and treatment. It is already managing the development of national centres for proton beam therapy in Manchester and London.