NEW service specifications for the delivery of radiotherapy services published by NHS England have been welcomed by IPEM.
The aims of the new specifications are to improve access to modern, advanced and innovative radiotherapy techniques.
This will see 11 Radiotherapy Operational Delivery Networks being established across England in 2019 to coordinate the development and improvement of radiotherapy services. This comes on top of the pledge made in the NHS Long Term Plan to complete the £130m upgrade or replacement of older radiotherapy machines with modern, cutting edge technology, enabling more patients to benefit from advanced radiotherapy treatments.
The specifications were informed by a detailed consultation process, which IPEM responded to. The Institute’s response highlighted concerns regarding the proposed centralisation of radiotherapy services that could lead to workforce challenges and healthcare inequalities.
Professor Mark Tooley, IPEM’s President, said: ‘We are pleased that NHS England has responded positively to these concerns. The proposals no longer require the centralisation of services for the less common cancers but instead promote collaboration and partnership working within Networks. This approach presents opportunities for joint, multi-disciplinary team working, standardisation of best practice and clinical protocols with the intent to increase equipment utilisation, as well as participation in research and clinical trials.
‘As noted in the Institute’s response to the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS depends on its people. IPEM’s Workforce Intelligence Unit has identified significant workforce challenges for the provision of radiotherapy services, with large vacancy rates for Clinical Scientists, clinical technologists and engineers who support and deliver the services. Although the aims of the Operational Delivery Networks for radiotherapy services are to provide greater workforce resilience and sustainability, workforce planning for medical physics and bioengineering staff has to remain a focus. Capacity for national training programmes for healthcare scientists must be expanded. There are also opportunities for expanding the roles of medical physics professionals within the multi-disciplinary team.
‘The new Networks will also need further investment to develop, particularly with regard to IT infrastructure, to enable efficient partnership working. We are pleased that NHS England is committed to supporting Networks to achieve this.’
The Radiotherapy Board, made up of IPEM, the Royal College of Radiologists and the Society and College of Radiographers, also issued a statement about the new service specifications, which you can read here.
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