High-tech cancer treatment is on its way to the region after years in which the region has lagged behind the rest of the UK.
NHS England’s decision to extend trials of advanced stereotatic radiotherapy (SABR) follows a hard-fought campaign by Burnham-On-Sea’s MP Tessa Munt and England rugby star Lawrence Dallaglio.
SABR is a more precise type of radiotherapy which delivers high doses of radiation while causing less damage to healthy tissue than conventional radiotherapy. Until now access to patients in the South West had been non-existent.
The trials are part of NHS England’s five year plan for the improvement of cancer treatment. The £15 million, three-year evaluation programme will increase by 750 the number of patients who can be treated each year.
The cancers treated will broaden to include oligometastatic disease (cancer that has spread to another part of the body), primary liver tumours, spinal tumours, the re-irradiation of cancers in the pelvis and other selected indications.
The investment is in addition to NHS England’s pledge to fund up to £6 million over the next five years to cover the NHS treatment costs of SABR clinical trials led by Cancer Research UK.
The new programme will begin in April. The guaranteed patient funding will also facilitate the development of SABR dedicated centres of excellence in the regions.
Tessa Munt, who has campaigned since 2010 to improve access to SABR treatment, said it is vital that such a centre is established in the region.
At the beginning of last year she joined forces with Mr Dallaglio and Nick van As, senior cancer consultant from the Royal Marsden Hospital, to place pressure on the Government to act.
Together they lobbied the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt; met with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, and in December 2014 they sat down with the Chief Executive Officer of NHS England, Simon Stevens, to demand action.
Tessa told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “I’ve asked over 300 parliamentary questions on this issue and at times it has felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall; it was very frustrating but I knew I was right. Radiotherapy is the way forward, it’s less intrusive, more effective and much cheaper, yet NHS England continued to prioritise spending on expensive drugs. I’m pleased to say this announcement finally puts this right.”