Politicians have criticised the “secret scandal” of poor radiotherapy provision, with an estimated 20,000 cancer patients missing out on treatment each year.
A report from MPs across the political spectrum said the NHS’s current commissioning system “allows perverse incentives and arbitrary, damaging restrictions to persist”.
It also raised concerns that NHS England had been “presenting evidence in a misleading way” when diverging from a charity’s analysis of Government data, supported by the Royal College of Radiologists, which estimated the shortfall to be at least 20,000 in England.
The report acknowledged it was very difficult to accurately predict need due to regional variations in provision, but said it was “unacceptable” that the primary commissioning body had no clear estimate.
The report said: “There was consensus among practitioners that much of the shortfall could be attributed to access and travel time, which was found to have a direct and statistically significant impact on access. NHS England seemed reluctant to accept what seemed the consensus view of most other respondents and there was concern they were presenting evidence in a misleading way.”
The report was produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Radiotherapy. It said NHS England had been unable to properly justify restricting the commissioning of the advanced radiotherapy technique stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) to fewer than half of the NHS trusts which provide radiotherapy.