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The role of radiotherapy in the treatment and cure of cancer is growing. Access to radiotherapy is modelled at about 50%; that is half of all patients diagnosed with cancer should be offered it as part of their treatment plan. Currently, radiotherapy in England falls short of this and increasing access to it will play an important part of the national agenda to save an additional 5,000 lives every year.

However, the expansion of the radiotherapy workforce, both in numbers and skills mix, remains a challenge to increasing access and to technical capability. Increasing complexity of radiotherapy both with IMRT (intensity modulated radiotherapy) and with IGRT (image guided radiotherapy), leading to use of 4D adaptive radiotherapy, is vital if we are to maximise the opportunity for World Class Radiotherapy. Additionally, as the NHS prepares to move to 7 day working (radiotherapy patients have indicated they are prepared to accommodate both evening and weekend appointments), developing sufficient workforce to meet this patient-centred development will be a key part of the NHS Commissioning Board’s strategy.

The issue of attrition from training placements for therapeutic radiographers has been a challenge for some years. Whilst it has marginally decreased, it still remains significantly higher than any other comparable profession. It is reasonable to state that if attrition was reduced to the levels of similar professions, the supply and demand challenge for therapeutic radiographers would largely be solved.

I am therefore pleased that this report written by Hazel Colyer and supported by the Society and College of Radiographers through the National Radiotherapy Implementation Group’s Workforce sub-group, tackles this issue with key recommendations and evidence-based opportunities.

I would encourage all providers of both radiotherapy training placements and radiotherapy education to work together to consider and implement the recommendations in this report. I would also encourage those who commission training placements for this important staff group to consider this report and to ensure it is widely implemented.

Tim Cooper
Associate Director – Radiotherapy
National Cancer Action Team

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