Activities in response to Covid 19

Virtual APPG meetings were held:

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Thursday 9th April 2020

Wednesday 22nd April 2020

Thursday 14th May 2020

Tuesday 19th May 2020

Tuesday 9th June 2020

Media Coverage

 

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1268059/cancer-deaths-coronavirus-nhs

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/coronavirus-extend-therapies-to-ease-cancer-backlog-doctors-tell-hancock-7z2kd63s8

https://news.sky.com/story/ccoronavirus-cancer-patients-helpless-amid-fears-more-will-die-from-delayed-treatment-than-covid-19-11978615

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1289400/cancer-treatment-delayed-coronavirus-pandemic

 

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/coronavirus-cancer-patients-at-risk-as-radiotherapy-machines-stand-idle-f5smbjmmr

 

ITV Central - https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=219056396048470

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8327133/Cancer-specialists-demand-urgent-meeting-Health-Secretary-Matt-Hancock.html

https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/radiotherapy-is-a-vital-treatment-that-can-reduce-unnecessary-cancer-deaths-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-74244

Coverage of Panorama, APPG 6 point plan and radiotherapy services

 

BBC: Coronavirus could cause 35,000 extra UK cancer deaths, experts warn (6 July 2020)

 

The Telegraph: Coronavirus could lead to 35,000 extra cancer deaths - double previous estimates (6 July 2020)

 

Daily Mail: Fury over warning that another 35,000 cancer patients will die in a year due to treatment delays caused by Covid-19 as top experts fear actual toll will be even higher and attack ministers for failing to tackle the backlog (6 July 2020)

 

The Times and The Times Redbox: Coronavirus could mean extra 35,000 deaths from cancer (6 July 2020)

 

iNews: Covid-19 ‘will cause up to 35,000 excess cancer deaths’ in a year due to NHS backlog (6 July 2020) 

 

The Sun: CANCER CRISIS My friend died too soon when coronavirus stopped her treatment – a tsunami of cancer deaths is about to hit (5 July 2020)

Evidence submitted to The Health & Social Care Committee - 1st May 2020

https://e8604b0e-5c16-4637-907f-3091e4443249.filesusr.com/ugd/b68571_eec1c8f1bd934717aa4c86a43b31092f.pdf

weekly MP COVID-19 Briefings

4th August 2020

APPG RT, Action Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy4Life campaign update

Bloomberg article: Radiotherapy Seen as Key to Solving U.K. Covid Cancer Crisis (31 July)

 

Increased investment in radiotherapy is key to addressing a backlog of cancer cases in the U.K. brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to medical professionals and the APPG for Radiotherapy. The article outlines how under-invested in the technology compared with other countries since before the Covid-19 crisis took hold, according to the charity, Action Radiotherapy. That could exacerbate a looming cancer crisis in Britain; thousands of patients may have missed diagnosis as a result of the pandemic, analysis from Cancer Research UK shows. As the economic fallout of lockdowns progresses, some oncologists have recommended radiotherapy as a relatively inexpensive way to treat and cure patients.

 

“Radiotherapy is faster, quicker and remote, so it’s the smart solution to this crisis,” said Pat Price, chair of Action Radiotherapy, who has been an oncologist for 32 years and calls the current crisis in Britain “the greatest tragedy to hit cancer care in my lifetime.”

The #CatchUpWithCancer Petition has hit 200,000 signees (3 August)

The #CatchUpWithCancer petition on Change.org now has 200,000 signatures just weeks after being launched.

 

 

Craig and Mandy Russell, parents to Kelly Smith, said: “The support for the campaign and some of the heart-breaking stories people have shared with us has been overwhelming. From the beginning we have said that millions of people will be affected. We just hope this can make a difference and hope it will inspire a response from Government and NHS leaders to boost services and prevent others from suffering as we have.”

 

Lurgan Mail article highlights cancer services: Cancer patients, who have had no treatment since Lockdown, still await appointments for chemotherapy says MP (29 July)

 

Article extract:

Upper Bann MP, Carla Lockhart has written to Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swan to provide an urgent update on when cancer treatments will resume as a result of constituent concerns.  “This is life saving treatment, for which time is of the essence.” “The anxiety amongst cancer sufferers and their loved ones is increasing by the day,”  

 

Speaking in the Assembly on Tuesday Health Minister provided an update regarding the rebuilding of cancer services.

 

Minister Swann said: “I am acutely aware of the distress caused by delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients.

 

“My aim is to ensure that we provide as much capacity as we can to deliver oncology and radiotherapy services within the context of preparing for a potential second wave of Covid-19.

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21st July 2020

APPG RT, Action Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy4Life campaign update

The Sunday Express article on #CatchUpWithCancer and Kelly Smith’s story: Father’s grief: ‘They stopped chemotherapy as it might make her vulnerable to Covid’ (19 July 2020)

 

Kelly’s father Craig Russell said stopping Kelly’s chemotherapy robbed his daughter, a beauty therapist with Pandora, of precious life and time with her family, friends and six year old son, Finley.

 

“Kelly’s case shows how a delay of days and weeks can make the difference between a cancer that is curable to one that is hard to treat or terminal.”  “Procrastination may cost tens of thousands of lives.”

 

 

Professor Pat Price writes on the cancer backlog in the Sunday Express (19 July 2020)

 

Founder of Radiotherapy4Life & #CatchUpWithCancer, and Chair of Action Radiotherapy, Professor Price writes: “Without doubt we are facing a truly national crisis”… “There needs to be a ‘super boost’ to cancer service from diagnostics right through the treatment pathway, to cope with what is shaping up to be the mother of all backlogs. And a good deal of that boost needs to go into transforming radiotherapy”.

 

Professor Pat Price is interviewed on BBC Midlands (17 July 2020)

 

“It is vital we clear the cancer backlog and get cancer services back up and running. We can save thousands of lives if we act now”, says Professor Pat Price on the cancer backlog and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign.

 

The Sun reports on the #CatchUpWithCancer petition reaching 145,000 signees in 48 hours (14 July 2020)

 

The parents of Kelly Smith, whose life was tragically cut short as a result of her cancer treatment being cut short by Covid respond to the signatures.

 

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14th July 2020

APPG RT, Action Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy4Life campaign update

New Campaign launch #CatchUpToCancer

 

The Radiotherapy4Life have teamed up with family of Kelly Smith to launch the campaign and Change.Org petition on BBC Breakfast TV | to get cancer services up and running, boost radiotherapy and save thousands of lives (11th July 2020)

The new campaign, #CatchUpToCancer campaign has been launched by Radiotherapy4Life and the family of Kelly Smith to get the UK’s cancer services back on track as soon as possible, boost radiotherapy services and prevent tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. Kelly featured in BBC’s Panorama programme “Britain’s cancer Crisis”, and tragically lost her life to cancer as a consequence of the delays to her treatment brought about by the COVID pandemic. The campaign and petition calls on Government to provide the massive boost to cancer services needed to catch up with, and cope with, the frightening surge in cancer demand as a result of delays and disruption to cancer care caused by the NHS response to the Covid pandemic.

  1. WWW.Change.Org/CatchUpToCancer

  2. BBC Breakfast TV

  3. Craig Russell, Stepdad to Kelly Smith who tragically passed away after filming for Panorama said: “The response to the BBC Panorama programme has been enormous and emotional.  We want to stop other families having to endure the kind of loss that we are suffering.  That’s why we are launching this campaign and petition in conjunction with the Radiotherapy4Life Campaign. We believe that Kelly’s death was in large part attributable to the impact of Covid on cancer services. Panorama reported that some experts believe up to 35,000 cancer patient could sadly be lost unnecessarily. That is a shockingly high number. Every single one of those deaths will be a tragedy. That’s why we are calling on the Government and senior NHS leaders to take urgent action to prevent this national tragedy.  We are concerned that the aspiration of the NHS seems limited to getting services up and running fully  by the end of the year.  That’s just too late.  Every day that goes by without urgent action patients will die unnecessarily. They need to work with the same energy and focus as the response to the coronavirus itself. We are urging everyone whether you have cancer, have a family member who does, or simply feel this is an important issue to please sign our petition at Change.org/CatchUpWithCancer ”.

  4. Professor Pat Price, Chair of Action Radiotherapy and founder of the Radiotherapy4Life campaign said: “We need a dramatic urgent intervention from Government or we are headed for tragedy. The Panorama investigation exposed this frightening crisis to the public and quite rightly people are concerned and angry. The Radiotherapy4Life campaign are pleased to join with Kelly’s family in the call for action to address the cancer backlog with the Catch Up With Cancer campaign. Our efforts to fight this cancer backlog must start now. Radiotherapy must be at the heart of that fight. However, without the investment and energy, backed by a proper urgent recovery plan, more patients will die unnecessarily. This has to stop.”

 

The #CatchUpToCancer campaign petition hits 100,000 on First Day – 150,000 in under 48 hours (12 July 2020)

 

The petition calling for urgent Government action to prevent the deaths of up to 35,000 cancer patients as a result of delays and disruption to their cancer treatments as a result of Covid has hit 100,000 signatures within hours of its launch. And has hit 150,000 in 48 hours.

 

The #CatchUpWIthCancer campaign and petition media coverage summary:

 

  1. Craig and Mandy Russell, parents to Kelly Smith said: “The response has been amazing and we are deeply grateful to have hit the 100,000 milestone so quickly. Now we are calling on people to share the petition and the campaign, so we can #CatchUpWithCancer and save thousands of lives. Please share and sign at Change.org/CatchUpWithCancer . We know Kelly would be happy to know we are continuing this vital work.”

  2. Professor Pat Price, Chair of Action Radiotherapy and founder of the Radiotherapy4Life campaign said: “The reaction to the campaign and petition messages of response makes clear the feelings of patients and the public; there are more heart breaking stories and passionate demands. We have to get cancer services up and running much quicker than the end of the year and boost radiotherapy services to play a vital role in catching up with cancer. Panorama exposed the brutal reality of the situation. Kelly’s story is a tragedy. But we can do something to save lives and we must act now.” 

 

The APPG RT 6 Point Plan on Digital Health (8th July 2020) - Calls for innovation fund for radiotherapy tech to help ease cancer backlog

 

An innovation fund for advanced radiotherapy IT and technical solutions should be established to help ease the “huge” backlog in cancer patients due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new recovery plan published by the APPG RT

 

Professor Pat Price urgent call for resolution to cancer backlog features on the Hippocratic Post (8th July 2020)

 

Action Radiotherapy calls for an urgent resolution to the cancer backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

“A dramatic intervention from Government and the NHS is needed to prevent thousands of lives being unnecessarily lost to the cancer backlog resulting from the Covid response”, Chair of Action Radiotherapy Professor Pat Price says following BBC Breakfast TV appearance.

 

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7th July 2020

Panorama investigation into Britain’s cancer crisis features radiotherapy services interview with  Professor Pat Price (6th July 2020)

 

Panorama heavily features both the impact on radiotherapy services and where radiotherapy should be picking up as a safe alternative to chemotherapy and surgery treatment disruptions. The documentary highlights several personal accounts, how action which is needed to overcome the cancer backlog, avoid further crisis in cancer services and most importantly save thousands of lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC iPlayer link: https://bbc.in/2O5YEmE

The All-Party Parliamentary Group launch the 6-point plan to transform radiotherapy services and save thousands of lives from the cancer backlog (6 July 2020). 

 

·      The APPG RT 6 point plan calls for: 

o   Create a national Task Force: Appoint a radiotherapy minister and Tsar to form a national task force of medical and industry professionals to ensure all available solutions already used in other countries are rapidly introduced in the UK. Sweep away the bureaucracy that has led to a ten year delay in the roll out of precision radiotherapy with SABR (stereotactic ablative radiotherapy), and sweep in appropriate leadership power and accountability to roll out all the other ground breaking IT and radiotherapy technology advances over that ten years.

o   Introduce IT and network solutions: Work with industry and modernise radiotherapy and invest in cutting edge IT and AI technology to allow workforce capacity and knowledge to be rapidly spread and implemented across the country. This change will be key to helping improve quality, access, and alleviate workforce issues. It is the only way.

o   Replace out of date machines: Create a ring- fenced central funding pot to replace out of date machines with newer more reliable technology to provide patients with better more precise treatments which can be delivered faster and so address the backlog. Change the situation where one fifth of trusts are using machines past the 10 year recommended lifespan, stopping frequent machine breakdowns, and solving the £140Million backlog in machine replacement costs.

o   Increase the workforce: Fund the 10-20% increase in the professionals needed to run the service and ensure the NHS can keep pace with demand.  

o   Increase access to radiotherapy: End the situation where 3.5m patients need to travel over the 45 minute recommended travel time and stop the cancer postcode lottery by investing £250Million in new networked treatment delivery centres

o   Raise the profile of radiotherapy to the level such a curative and important cancer treatment deserves to ensure more patients are cured.

 

Professor Pat Price appears on BBC Breakfast TV to discuss the findings of Panorama, impact on radiotherapy services and the APPG RT 6 point plan to transform radiotherapy (6 July 2020)

 

Action Radiotherapy chair and founder of Radiotherapy4Life, Professor Pat Price made the case for further investment into radiotherapy service to mitigate the impact of the cancer backlog on BBC Breakfast ahead of the airing of Panorama.  

 

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30th June 2020

Chair of the APPG for Radiotherapy, Tim Farron MP raises the case for boosting radiotherapy during Health and Social Care Oral Questions (23 June 2020).

 

The APPG RT have written to Health Minister Jo Churchill following her response to the question on methods which could be used to complete the rollout process for SABR even quicker than the new 31 March 2021 deadline. The letter also concerned the response from the Minister during the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill and radiotherapy debated later on 23 June 2020.

 

Full transcript: https://bit.ly/2NFpXEo

 

Chair of the APPG for Radiotherapy, Tim Farron MP speaks on radiotherapy during the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill | Remaining Stages debate (23 June 2020)

 

Full Transcript: https://bit.ly/2BKDhVo

 

Advanced radiotherapy raised during Health and Social Care Oral Questions by Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris MP

 

Extracts, transcripts and summary in Parliament update.

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23rd June 2020

The APPG for Radiotherapy wrote to NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens requesting a meeting to discuss the radiotherapy services and the potential for boosting radiotherapy to mitigate the impact of the cancer backlog (17 June 2020)

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16th June 2020

NHS England formally announce the accelerated rollout for stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) from 2022 to April 2021 in a press release (11th June 2020). The precise radiotherapy treatment which requires fewer doses than standard radiotherapy, cutting the number of hospital visits that potentially vulnerable cancer patients need to make. Rather than full rollout by 2022, it will now be available across the NHS by the end of this financial year.
 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy responds to the SABR announcement (11th June 2020). The APPG had written to the Secretary of State following the reports in The Times that an announcement would be coming. Tim Farron MP, Chair of the APPG RT said: “It is absolutely vital that the decision to accelerate the rollout of SABR is backed by a detailed plan to make sure there are no further delays to rollout and we bring an end to the current situation where just half of NHS Trusts In England are able to offer the treatment. We have called for the acceleration of SABR for a long time but this welcome announcement urgently needs to be backed up with concrete action and a plan to boost radiotherapy services to help deal with the pressures they are currently facing.”


Professor Pat Price joint article in the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) (10th June 2020):  Title: Why radiotherapy is crucial for cancer patients during and post Covid-19. In face of Covid the article outlines evidence that radiotherapy is less immunosuppressive than other treatments and can continue to be given. Trends in the use of advanced precision radiotherapy techniques and other technological solutions which reduces the need for patients to leave home are outlined.

 

Professor Pat Price responds to the SBRT announcement video (11 June 2020)

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9th June 2020

The Times reports on 243 radiotherapy professionals writing to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care & subsequent NHS decision on accelerating the Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR) rollout (5 June 2020)

 

While detail of the NHS plan has not been made publicly available the article states “Every UK cancer centre can provide SABR but only 26 out of England’s 52 centres are permitted to offer it, according to letters and parliamentary questions. The treatment has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, but NHS England had indicated that the national expansion would not be completed until 2022. The Times can reveal that the NHS now plans to bring this forward so that all hospitals can carry out SABR by April but meanwhile the machines sit in hospitals unused.”

 

The APPG for Radiotherapy responds asking for official detail of the plan: https://twitter.com/APPGRT/status/1268861591816208386

 

Lancet Oncology: Initiation of the Global Coalition for Radiotherapy during the COVID-19 pandemic (Professor Pat Price & Shandi E Barney 4 June 2020)

 

Outlines how the multidisciplinary Global Coalition for Radiotherapy, bringing together experts from around the world, has advocated for a joined up approach focus on IT and technology solutions to overcome years of under investment. The group established a global voice for best practice in dealing with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, offering up solutions for bridging gaps and rapidly boosting capacity to tackle the backlog.

 

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2nd June 2020

Professor Pat Price quotes feature in article from The Sun: Experts warn cancer treatment which could save lives is being ‘rationed’ (26 May 2020)

 

Pat Price, chair of Action Radiotherapy, said: "We were at capacity to start with so when we get more patients coming through, we will not be able to deal with it.

 

"We've got some real big solutions here and it's crazy that we've got machinery here that could solve some of the backlog and help improve survival, and yet we're not being allowed to use it. It's madness."

 

Sunday Express article: Putting off cancer treatments is “trading deaths” says experts (31 May 2020)

 

Cancer experts warn a “tsunami” of cancer cases lies ahead, as hospitals “trade deaths” by downgrading referrals to concentrate on coronavirus.

 

Professor Pat Price quoted “This will have a domino effect and we are bracing ourselves for a tsunami of cancer cases. Delays in restarting diagnostic services will lead to delays in diagnosis and more advanced cancer. More patients will no longer be curable by surgery, meaning we will have to deal with our own backlog, as well as these cases which were not treated in a timely way. This will likely be overwhelming.”

 

Open letter from radiotherapy professionals to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care calling for the end of SABR rationing reaches 235 signatures in under a week (1 June 2020)

 

The open letter states: “NHS England must stop rationing Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR). The use of SABR is essential to increase UK radiotherapy capacity, in order to deal with the cancer backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic” 

 

APPG on Cancer share cancer patient and Paralympic gold medallist David Smith’s strategies to combat anxiety video series from Action Radiotherapy YouTube channel (28 May 2020)

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26th May 2020

 

The APPG RT and APPG on Cancer met with Health Minister Jo Churchill and NHS England National Cancer Director, Dame Cally Palmer to discuss radiotherapy, cancer services and the impacts of Covid (20 May 2020)

 

The APPG RT made the case for:

-Radiotherapy to be recognised as a vital solution to the situation cancer services currently face and that advanced radiotherapy national availability be part of a cancer recovery plan

-Called for an update to radiotherapy NICE guidance

-Called for the creation of a National Task Force to deliver world class cancer services by boosting radiotherapy and encompassing the whole NHS radiotherapy sector. 

The APPG RT joins a group of cancer APPGs in a letter to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock calling for a cancer recovery plan (22 May 2020)

 

The letter was co-signed by the chairs of APPGs including the APPG on Blood Cancer, APPG on Breast Cancer, APPG on Cancer, APPG on Children, Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer, APPG on Ovarian Cancer, APPG on Pancreatic Cancer, APPG for Radiotherapy and APPG on Stem Cell Transplantation.

Professor Pat Price quotes feature in SABR article on Sky News: Experts warn cancer treatment which could save lives is being ‘rationed’ (26 May 2020)

 

Pat Price, chair of Action Radiotherapy, said: "We were at capacity to start with so when we get more patients coming through, we will not be able to deal with it.

 

"We've got some real big solutions here and it's crazy that we've got machinery here that could solve some of the backlog and help improve survival, and yet we're not being allowed to use it. It's madness."

 

Sunday Express article features the letter written by the seven APPGs calling for a national cancer recovery plan to deal with the backlog of cancer cases (24 May 2020)

 

The print article can be read here.

Action Radiotherapy, Radiotherapy4Life and the APPG RT launch email your MP appeal calling for the removal of restrictions on advanced radiotherapy that would allow patients to be treated, more safely and more quickly (24 May 2020)

The appeal in the form of a letter urges Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock and DHSC to sweep away restrictions on advanced radiotherapy as part of a post Covid cancer recovery plan.

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19th May 2020

The APPG RT recommendations to the Health Secretary feature in the Mail on Sunday. (17 May 2020)

A recommendation made by the APPG RT to remove commissioning restrictions on the advanced radiotherapy treatment, SABR (Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy), appeared in the Mail on Sunday in both print and online.

 

The paper outlined how the Health Secretary had been offered the recommendation by MPs and radiotherapy experts. It noted how treatments could now” spare patients dozens of exhausting hospital visits and deliver treatments in as little as three – with one lung cancer sufferer being treated in a breakthrough single session last week”.

 

Members of the All-Party Group for Radiotherapy take part in cancer APPG joint meeting (18 May 2020)

In a meeting with other APPG chairs, Tim Farron and APPG members joined the chairs of other APPGs to discuss the impacts of Covid-19 on cancer services and recommendations which could be offered to Government.

 

 

The APPG RT met on Thursday 14th May 2020 to discuss actions following the inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on cancer services.

In this meeting parliamentarians discussed the actions the group would take to further highlight the case for boosting radiotherapy services following the inquiry and recent media coverage.

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12th May 2020

Action Radiotherapy present flash survey results at Global Coalition for Radiotherapy meeting (5 May 2020). The charity Action Radiotherapy undertook a flash survey of on the ground radiotherapy professionals, between 24-27th April 2020, following the changes made within the NHS, in response to Covid-19 pandemic. The findings, which were also presented to Parliament, were outlined in a meeting with the group of professionals taking responsibility for finding short and long term solutions for patients during the Covid-19 emergency.

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5th May 2020

The APPG RT publishes evidence of mini-inquiry and submits as evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee (30 April 2020)

A mini inquiry published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy, has found that despite radiotherapy offering potential to prevent avoidable cancer deaths, services are being limited, delayed and cancelled.  The findings, which have been presented to the Health Select Committee, found that unless urgent and co-ordinated action is taken by the Government, in the form of a National Taskforce, the UK will lose more lives from cancer, as a result of the understandable focus on Covid-19, than we are able to save from the virus.

 

Chair of the APPG RT, Tim Farron has an article published on PoliticsHome/ The House Magazine live: Radiotherapy is a vital treatment that can reduce unnecessary cancer deaths during the coronavirus pandemic (4 May 2020)

 

The APPG RT evidence mentioned an article in The Times (30 April 2020): Cancer patients at risk as radiotherapy machines stand idle

 

The APPG RT publishes a flash survey of radiotherapy professionals (30 April 2020) survey findings include:

  • Only 31% of front-line staff felt they had access to full and appropriate levels of PPE

  • 61% reported between 21-60% of patients had their radiotherapy treatment disrupted and 65% of responders were concerned or extremely concerned.

  • 36% were not able to introduce advanced radiotherapy with SABR to shorten treatment and 24% reported poor or very poor IT.

  • Unused machine capacity has increased 5- fold, with some centres reporting 6 hours per day spare machine

  • 97% of respondents said that at least some prostate radiotherapy was cancelled, the average was 56% of patients cancelled, 3% said 0 cancellations and 20% said 100%. The time delay being planned ranged from 2-6 months

  • 24% felt radiotherapy services were severely undervalued and 41% undervalued by senior policy makers in Government and the NHS

  • 38% felt that the Government had no understanding of the effect of the current situation in radiotherapy on cancer patients and 51% no understanding on the effect on the radiotherapy workforce

 

The APPG RT responds to comments made by NHS England’s National Cancer Director during Health and Social Care Select Committee hearing (2 May 2020)

 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy have reacted with concern following answers given by NHS England’s National Cancer Director, Dame Cally Palmer, at the Health and Social Care Committee, which appear out of step with the evidence of a mini-inquiry run by the APPG this week. In response APPG RT Chair, Tim Farron MP and Vice-Chair, Grahame Morris, have written to Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England, to call for an urgent virtual meeting to discuss the findings and set out how boosting radiotherapy services is an unmissable opportunity for the NHS to prevent avoidable cancer deaths during Covid-19.

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27th April 2020

Sky News media coverage: Professor Pat Price, chair of Action Radiotherapy and advisor to the APPG RT appears as a cancer expert on Sky News to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on cancer treatment pathways (25th April 2020).

  • “We will almost certainly going lose more patients unnecessarily from cancer as we do from COVID-19, that is because much of the whole pathway has been disrupted from patients not feeling they can present to their general practitioners, not wanting to disturb the NHS, we know the two week wait is down. And patients having their appointments cancelled.”

 

The APPG for Radiotherapy conduct virtual meeting with the Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt (24 April 2020) to discuss the current crisis in radiotherapy services.

The APPG agreed to produce a body of evidence for the Health Select Committee’s ongoing work in the area of health services disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

 

The APPG RT were joined in a virtual meeting by members of the Cancer APPG (22 April 2020) to discuss the ongoing need for action to prevent a further epidemic of cancer deaths after the COVID-19 crisis abates.

 

ITV Central media coverage (23 April 2020): Professor Pat Price appears on ITV Central calling for action to avoid the “double tragedy” of losing as many patients from cancer as we do from COVID-19 Full piece: Cancer sufferer feels 'sacrificed' for COVID-19 patients after vital operation cancelled

Action Radiotherapy launch a poll for radiotherapy professions (24 April 2020) to provide further on the ground evidence of what is happening in radiotherapy services and highlight the experiences of staff and patients.

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20th April 2020

 

Chairs of All Party Parliamentary Groups on Cancer and Radiotherapy Reaction To Matt Hancock’s Comments on Covid/Cancer (17th April)

 

Chairs of All Party Parliamentary Groups on Cancer and Radiotherapy Reaction To Matt Hancock’s Comments on Covid/Cancer

 

Chairs of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) focussed on cancer, have responded with extreme concern to the comments raised by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, earlier today when he was challenged over the large number of avoidable cancer deaths that will occur as an inadvertent consequence of the intensity of the overall NHS Covid-19 response.

 

Recent research has indicated that a growing number of people could be lost to cancer due their treatments being unnecessarily delayed, deferred or cancelled. When challenged on this point by Rosie Cooper MP during today’s ‘virtual’ Health and Social Care Select Committee, the Secretary of State failed to engage with, or acknowledge, this problem. His answers suggested that cancer treatments were being disrupted only when clinically justified due to the higher risk of infection during the pandemic, and that the main concern was that cancer patients weren’t coming forward for treatment at this time.

 

Tonia Antoniazzi MP, chair of the APPG on Cancer said, ‘Whilst it is true that some cancer treatment is being rightly disrupted because clinicians, in conversation with patients, are making a judgement on whether the treatment is still suitable as it would increase their risk of infection to Covid-19, far too many blanket stoppages of treatment are still occurring. We are talking about a growing number of cancer treatments being disrupted or stopped for a whole range of other Covid related reasons including professionals being deployed away from the cancer frontline. We could be about to see the ‘double tragedy’ of a large loss of life to Covid being followed by further loss of life to cancer. I implore the Minister to meet with us to outline his plan for ensuring people still get the cancer treatment they need.’

 

Tim Farron MP, chair of the APPG for Radiotherapy, said, ‘A catastrophic cancer crisis is unfolding right now. I fear that the Secretary of State is being shielded from this information as if he was aware of it, I’m sure that he would act. The clamour from professionals and experts is getting louder every day. I urge him to meet with myself and Tonia Antoniazzi as a matter of urgency. The majority of these so called ‘collateral’ cancer deaths are avoidable. All it takes is the realisation that they are about to happen and a commitment to some bold simple steps to boost services like radiotherapy. This is a problem with a solution’.

 

The Times, Redbox: Professor Pat Price, Chair of Action Radiotherapy, appeared in The Times Redbox. The APPGRT, Action Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy4Life campaign feel this is an excellent summary of the current challenges faced by radiotherapy services and the solutions needed. Full Article: Cancer patients deserve the best treatment despite pressures of coronavirus (16th April)

 

Action Radiotherapy joins urgent teleconference with other cancer charities and Alex Norris MP, to discuss the radiotherapy emergency (14th April)

 

Former England and Manchester United Football Captain Bryan Robson supports the Action Radiotherapy campaign to help cancer patients during the COVID-19 crisis on Instagram on (17th April 2020).

 

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14th April 2020

Letter to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care n 4th April 2020: the APPG for Radiotherapy wrote to Matt Hancock urging him to prioritise the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for radiotherapy professionals and called on him to take steps to boost radiotherapy capacity to save lives. Letter PDF: https://bit.ly/2V8pP3w

APPG RT Meeting on 9th April 2020: our group met virtually to discuss COVID-19 pressures and how radiotherapy services are responding to them. It was recognised that radiotherapy was quickly becoming the preferred treatment for cancer due to the lower risk of infection but without urgent action there was a risk of avoidable cancer deaths, as a result of unintended consequences of actions to tackle the pandemic, outstripping the numbers saved from COVID-19. Actions needed include:

• Innovative IT, transport and capacity solutions are all needed maximize services ability to function and continue to treat patients

• Vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for clinicians working centimetres from vulnerable cancer patients

• Harnessing private sector capacity to boost radiotherapy, particularly the advanced treatments. We understand from our informal contacts with the private sector (which has around 20 radiotherapy centres around the country) that some of their facilities have significant spare capacity. We believe that this excess private capacity could be, and should be, made available to the NHS.

• Oversee the necessary tariff, commissioning, regulatory and team structure changes that are urgently needed to prevent services collapsing.

 

Sunday Express article on Sunday 12th April 2020: Cancer deaths set to soar amid coronavirus crisis: CANCER deaths caused by the indirect effects of Covid-19 on the NHS will outstrip the number predicted to die from the virus, experts have warned.

The article mentions the APPG RT letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care calling for a refocus on preventing avoidable cancer deaths.

Launch of Coalition for Global Radiotherapy Response to Covid-19 8 April

Action Radiotherapy along with Radiotherapy4Life supporters brought together representative from the international radiotherapy professional community and industry to discuss sharing of experience and data and to find ways to ensure access and delivery of radiotherapy during this challenging time. Radiotherapy professional from Wuhan shared their advice. A range of solutions were being pursued around the world, but the UK were clearly not actively and aggressively tackling the issue as well as other nations. A statement is being produced as well as estimates of how many cancer lives will be lost due to the crisis and how many unnecessary cancer deaths may occur if insufficient action is taken now.

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30th March 2020

How have Radiotherapy Services responded?

Prioritising treatments based on clinical need: Prioritising treatments has become essential during this crisis. The additional risk of a patient contracting the virus needs to be weighed up against the advantage of their radiotherapy treatment. The radiotherapy community has demonstrated commendable effort in producing guidance and collaborative effort on treatments. Tariff constrictions need to be removed immediately so that decisions are based purely on clinical outcome and help Trusts to adhere to COVID-19 radiotherapy guidance. For example, If advanced radiotherapy, SABR, could be performed wherever clinically relevant, this would reduce the number of times that patient needs to visit the department and would relieve pressure on the already stretched workforce.

Maximizing IT infrastructure: Radiotherapy professionals have responded to the epidemic by trying to minimise the risk of their patients and healthcare workers contracting Covid-19. Where possible, follow-up activity is being conducted by telephone and video conferencing. While heroic efforts are being made to ensure treatments are not interrupted, if modern IT infrastructure that has the capability for remote radiotherapy planning is available, this would mean that Consultants could plan treatments from their home, further minimising risk. Future investment in this area is vital.

Workforce planning and protection: As radiotherapy requires a specialised multidisciplinary workforce, and it is expected that there will be further staff shortages over the coming weeks, a temporary Covid-19 register has been set-up. This will include professionals who have voluntarily left the workforce within the last 3 years and final year students who have finished their clinical placements. Adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs to be available for front line workers treating cancer patients with radiotherapy as well.

The role of the APPG RT, Action Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy4Life campaign during this crisis

We are producing a series of briefing notes which set out, for those with an interest in the sector, how it is coping with, and contributing to, the COVID-19 response. Our hope is that these briefings will be a useful resource in future radiotherapy policy development once the immediate crisis abates. In addition, we will be: 

 

1. Writing to our members and members of the Health Select Committee to provide valuable information on how this often forgotten, but vital area of cancer treatment, is being impacted

2. Using the future launch of “my radiotherapy story” to monitor how patients are experiencing radiotherapy treatments at this difficult time.

3. Working with the charity Action Radiotherapy to provide daily updates to the radiotherapy community on resources and emerging guidelines on radiotherapy treatment and Covid19 infection and linking with the global community to provide rapid communication of advice and support.

4. Urging Parliamentarians to engage with us though virtual means to update on how the campaign remains at the centre of securing a world class radiotherapy service for everyone.

 

The APPG’s inquiry recommendations are even more important than ever

Advanced radiotherapy treatments being rationed: Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR), is restricted by NHS England to half the radiotherapy centres in England, despite weekly publications on its efficacy and safety. Many treatments programmes could be completed in as few as 5 hospital visits with advanced radiotherapy, less advanced techniques could require over 30, significantly increasing the risk of interrupted treatments. Central restrictions on commissioning need to be lifted to allow professional to treat the patients in the best way for their cancer and not in response to slow moving bureaucracy.

• Patients missing treatment: At least 20,000 patients in England a year, are already missing out on radiotherapy. It is essential that radiotherapy is uninterrupted and is also vital in the treatment of early detected cancer. The current crisis means that already under strain services could lead to many more patients missing out on this life saving treatment.

• Radiotherapy Machine replacements: It is concerning that half of NHS Trusts are still operating machines that are older than the recommended 10-year life span and funding was not forthcoming from Government following the existing 2016 funding running out in April 2019. Using up to date machines significantly reduces the amount of downtime of a machine and staff time wasted, which is now needed to increase capacity.

• Travel Times: 3.5 million people in England do not have access to a radiotherapy treatment within the 2012 Department of Health maximum 45-minute travel time recommendation. Travel time is consistently reported as the number one concern of patients accessing radiotherapy and will provide a more significant factor in current circumstances.

• Workforce: Radiotherapy is delivered by a multidisciplinary work force of around 5000 highly skilled professionals. The workforce crisis has disproportionately affected radiotherapy in the UK. The number of unfilled consultant posts in the UK has doubled and is expected to reach 272 in 2023. Whilst the introduction of the grant for trainee therapeutic radiographers is welcomed, it does not go far enough to attract and retain professionals.

 

Cancer patients and the radiotherapy workforce are facing unprecedented challenges. Many of the APPG RT’s findings and COVID-19 related challenges present learning opportunities to develop a truly world class cancer service.

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aCTION rADIOTHERAPY

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