Handing in our petition to number 10 Downing Street

Our 'Voice for Radiotherapy' campaign petition garnered over 36,000 signatures

As 2011 drew to a close, so too did the Year of Radiotherapy.

The aim of the Year, which we’ve blogged about before, was to improve public understanding and raise awareness of this important form of treatment, which receives less attention than cancer drugs, yet cures more people.

We achieved a lot over the last 12 months, bringing the UK closer to having world class radiotherapy services. Here’s a quick run-down of what happened, and when.

A year of progress

Back in January, we held a briefing in parliament to raise awareness of radiotherapy among MPs. We asked MPs to engage with their local radiotherapy services to find out how best to support them with the individual challenges they face and to highlight their support in their local media.

February saw the launch of our Voice for Radiotherapy campaign, which called on the Government to ensure that all services have the appropriate workforce, the best treatments and the capacity to plan for the future.

In May, Northern Ireland’s health minister, Edwin Poots, announced £56 million of funding for a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin, Londonderry.

In July, the Sir Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, called for more money to be spent on radiotherapy services at a roundtable discussion at the Royal Marsden. And in Scotland, £22 million of new equipment was announced.

August was another busy month with the publication of the first annual report for radiotherapy and the fantastic news that a reduction in waiting times is saving lives. The collection of data like that used to produce this report will allow us to understand what is happening in radiotherapy services across the country and crucially, help them to improve.

In November, our Ambassadors headed to Downing Street to hand in our campaign petition which received more than 36,000 signatures.

And, even more gratifyingly, the year ended on a high, with the announcement from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in December that proton beam therapy will be established in England by 2016. This is great news for patients who currently have to go abroad to receive this treatment on the NHS.

More still to do

We’ve made great progress towards achieving world class radiotherapy services, but there’s still a lot to do.

For example, we want to see more advanced techniques such as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) rolled out across the NHS – and it will be important to ensure that waiting times don’t slip as a result.

We also want to make sure that efficiency savings in the NHS don’t affect the radiotherapy workforce or equipment. And it will be important to monitor progress on introducing proton beam therapy to ensure an excellent service delivered within the stated timeframe.

We’re in the process of setting out Cancer Research UK’s detailed position on the different issues in this area. And we’re also planning activity for this year so that we can continue to ensure good progress.

We look forward to continuing to hold the Government to its commitments into 2012 and beyond.