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Radiotherapy

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many linear accelerators he expects to be available to the NHS in each year of the next 10 years. (156782)

The Department does not routinely collect these data, the acquisition of resources is a matter for local determination based on local needs. However when final deliveries are completed, as part of the recent central procurement, there will be approximately 250 linear accelerators (linacs) installed in national health service trusts in England.

The National Radiotherapy Advisory Group report published in May 2007 has recommended that more linacs will be needed over the next 10 years. The recommendations in this report are being considered as part of the development of the cancer reform strategy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether all radiotherapy centres have plans in place to deliver the 4-tier skills mix model. (156783)

All trusts with radiotherapy centres are being encouraged to review their skill mix following the recommendations made by the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group (NRAG) produced in May 2007, however radiotherapy staffing profiles need to be based on local needs and priorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many radiotherapy departments have more than eight linear accelerators. (156784)

Three1 radiotherapy departments in England have more than eight linear accelerators on site. These are Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. However, we do not hold information on whether all these machines are in routine clinical use. Some of these machines may be used for clinical research, training purposes or used as back up when another machine requires maintenance.

1 Source:

Health Protection Agency -linear accelerator installed base 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average number of fractions per linear accelerator was in the most recent period for which figures are available, broken down by radiotherapy facility. (156785)

In 2005, a radiotherapy equipment survey was carried out by the National Cancer Services Analysis Team. Results from this survey were included in the report of the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group that was published in May 2007.

As set out in this report 39 out of 48 Trusts with radiotherapy facilities in England responded to the survey. The median radiotherapy centre gave 7,400 fractions per linac and 16 out of the 39 centres delivered more than 8,000 fractions per linac on average. A chart showing the range of productivity across the 39 radiotherapy facilities in England that responded to the survey has been placed in Library.

The radiotherapy equipment survey has recently been repeated and the updated information is currently being validated. A more up-to-date position should therefore be available by the end of October 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many linear accelerators were available to the NHS in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what average number of fractions per annum was delivered by each. (156786)

The Department does not collect data in the format requested, however, the following information might be helpful.

The National Radiotherapy Advisory Group Report published in May 2007 indicated that there were 215 linear accelerators (linacs) in England in August 2006 and that the median radiotherapy centre gave 7,400 fractions per linac averaged across the centre.

From the 39 centres out of 48 that responded to a radiotherapy equipment survey in 2004-05 undertaken by the National Cancer Services Analysis team, the annual average fractions per linear accelerator was 7,522. This included all linacs which were recorded as having been in routine clinical use for the whole year and excluded Cobalt units, machines used for backup, and two machines with very low activity levels less than 100 courses.

The radiotherapy equipment survey has been repeated and results should be available shortly.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to increase the number of hybrid virtual environments on radiotherapy training sites. (156787)

In May 2007 we announced £5 million of capital funding to support the introduction of virtual skills training facilities to national health service trusts and universities where therapeutic radiography training is undertaken. The National Cancer Director wrote to trusts and universities supporting radiotherapy training on 6 October 2007 inviting them to apply for funding to allow them to procure the facilities.