NHS cost-cutting means cancer patients cannot use hospital’s £2.5million radiotherapy machine

14 July 2014

NHS cost-cutting means cancer patients cannot use hospital’s £2.5million radiotherapy machine

A state-of-the-art SABR radiotherapy device at Northampton General Hospital is not being used due to cost cutting, with doctors having last used it two months ago.

The £2.5million radiotherapy machine is used for patients with tumours, whether lung or live related, but was last used two months ago. The valuable technology, which is reported to cost £10,000 per use, is not being used due to its running cost-leaving cancer patients without the benefit of some of the best radiotherapy treatment equipment currently available.

As a summit is being held at the House of Commons to deal with the ‘national disgrace’ of poor cancer care in England, it has been revealed complicated funding issues in the new NHS England structure are to blame for the equipment lying idle.

The session-which will involve over 30 of the UK’s top cancer specialists as well as 30 MPs-has been set up by England rugby figure and health campaigner Lawrence Dallaglio, whose mother Eileen died of cancer in 2008.

"This is madness"

The shock of the wasted equipment only cmae to light after a Lib Dem MP, Tessa Munt, made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to hospitals if they had the SABR Stereotatic ablative radiotherapy programme.

Although Northampton wrote back to say they did use it, they revealed they stopped using it in April.

Mistreatment.com has helped patients with a number of cancer related enquiries where it has been seen that effective treatment is extremely important in treating cancer and in identifying it accurately at an early stage so that it does not further spread.

Ms Munt spoke to the Daily Mirror newspaper stating: “This is madness.

“NHS England is supposed to be expanding access to innovative radiotherapy not shutting centres down.

“The implications of this for the future of cancer care are appalling.”

SABR, or stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, uses its specialist equipment to scan, accurately target cancer cells and to use radiotherapy to destroy cancer them precisely..

Labour MP Grahame Morris added: “This is outrageous what is happening at Northampton General and it is happening all over the country.

“Thousands of people are being denied access to machines for SABR and it’s just not acceptable.

“Treatment that is routinely available overseas is not available here in the UK. And it’s down to trying to save money.”

A health sector source said: “This is a classic case of cost-cutting versus the benefit to patients.

“By NHS England saving itself £10,000 time on this kind of specialised radiotherapy, it will essentially cost the hospital three times as much when the patient gets sicker and needs surgery.

“This is all complete short-term thinking to save money.

"Because of the new relationship between each hospital and this giant quango NHS England all kinds penny pinching are now involved. This is just one appalling example.”

Worryingly, the information requests also showed that those cancer patients being treated by the SABR equipment had actually fallen by 10% across the whole NHS since NHS England took control in April 2013.

Taking Action

Mistreatment.com has a number of a specialist cancer teams which can provide patient care advice to patients who are undergoing cancer treatment about their patient rights if they want to make a complaint against a hospital or trust. Whether it is to understand their patient rights, make an official complaint or to launch a legal claim where there has been medical mistreatment, Mistreatment.com is able to talk to you about the options available to you on our free helpline.