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Shortage of cancer centres leaves 3.4 million living beyond average travel time

Some 3.4 million are living beyond the recommended travel time for radiotherapy treatment. Experts say patients should be within 45 minutes but analysis shows many face far longer due to a shortage of cancer centres.

In the list of top 10 worst constituencies, no one in Barrow and Furness and the Isle of Wight lives in the recommended time. In North West Norfolk only 0.4 percent are in the 45-minute zone and a mere 4.7 percent in North Devon.

Keighley is fifth on 5.6 percent, following an analysis of postcodes in England by the cancer charity Radiotherapy UK.

It is followed by Chelmsford (7.3 percent), Skipton and Ripon (7.8), Copeland (9.1), York Central (18.5) and Shipley (20.3).

In one out of every 20 constituencies at least half live too far from a cancer centre. Those in rural areas and with poor transport links struggle the most. Campaigners warn that too many patients face a long cruel “cancer commute” or risk going without.

With the Daily Express, they are calling on the Government to boost radiotherapy funding to cut travel. It is hoped this will slash the cancer backlog and save lives.

Professor Pat Price, a leading oncologist and chair of Radiotherapy UK, said: “For individuals already battling the physical and emotional challenges of cancer, the burden of excessive travel times adds an extra layer of stress and can adversely affect treatment outcomes.

“The fact so many are affected is yet another symptom of the lack of investment in cancer treatment. A modest level of investment in radiotherapy machines and the technology that can allow clinicians to remotely access them would have a transformative effect.”

The Government says between 2016 and 2021 it increased the cancer workforce by 4,300 and has injected £50million this year. But Conservative MP for Shipley Philip Davies said the “postcode lottery is not acceptable and it is vital the NHS and the Government address this massive gap in provision for too many people”.

Tory MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby warned that the lack of a local treatment centre is putting “huge pressure” on the NHS.

She said: “Sadly people in my constituency are taking vital decisions based on travel times rather than health and that worries me greatly. There are huge pressures on the healthcare system here and there are fewer volunteer drivers available to help out.”

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Tim Farron MP is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, number 25 on the list.

He said people only discover the access problem after “a cancer diagnosis and have to face often gruelling daily commutes”.

Radiotherapy is needed by one in four patients and plays a role in half of all cancer cures.

But clinicians and campaigners warn lengthy travel is hindering access to treatment.

The Daily Express Radiotherapy Campaign is demanding new radiotherapy machines to handle rising cancer rates, satellite centres to slash journey times and more radiotherapist to break the cancer backlog.

To do this the service will need a £1billion boost over five years. Our crusade is backed by Radiotherapy
UK and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign.

Manchester United and England legend Bryan Robson, 66, who survived cancer after lifesaving radiotherapy in Thailand, is also supporting us.

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