Some of the UK’s leading brain doctors have criticised the government for “draconian changes”, which they claim could put cancer patients’ lives at risk.
In a letter to NHS leaders, seen by the Daily Mirror, the group of experts express their anger at plans to cut the number of specialist brain cancer centres from 25 to seven.
They claim the new system will restrict access to advanced radiotherapy, delay treatment and leave multi-million pound cancer machines sitting idle instead of being used by patients.
“To the layman it’s appalling. To the expert it’s appalling”
The letter was signed by all 13 members of the Radiosurgery Clinical Review Group representing regions across England.
But the body NHS England said resources need to be “in the right place to benefit the most patients”.
Lead consultant neurosurgeon Matthias Radatz, chair of the group, said NHS England was “acting out of spite or ignorance”.
“The changes last year were draconian and patients who wait for radiosurgery have been left totally in limbo,” he told the newspaper. “To the layman it’s appalling. To the expert it’s appalling.”
The letter adds: “We felt this structure was already well-established and in place and there would be no need to re-invent the wheel and that commissioning should continue.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “We cannot have expensive facilities underused. The emerging findings of the internal review report do suggest that there is excess capacity and poor utilisation across the current providers which is not in the best interest of patients.
“We cannot have expensive facilities underused”
“Following feedback there is more work to be done on understanding the future numbers of patients that need treatment for the clinical conditions already described in the national clinical policies,” the spokesman for NHS England said.
“It is important that we have the right provision in the right place delivered by a full team of clinicians to best serve patients and make the money available go as far as it possibly can,” he added.