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In order to offer more convenient and potentially safer forms of cancer treatment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, NHS England is accelerating the launch of a new type of radiotherapy. Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) is a very precise method of radiotherapy that uses fewer doses of radiation than conventional radiotherapy, thus cutting the number of hospital visits from 20-30 to around five for potentially vulnerable cancer patients.
Full rollout of SABR was planned for 2022; it will now be available nationwide across the NHS by the end of this financial year for non-small cell lung cancer and the treatment of metastases in the lungs, lymph nodes and bone. Further rollout for other types of cancer is planned for 2021/22.
In addition, to help with the backlog of 2.4 million people in the UK waiting for cancer screening, further tests or cancer treatment, due to disruption to cancer services, the NHS is:
- Increasing treatment outside of hospital, such as the use of ‘chemo buses’ to treat patients without them having to come to hospital
- Increasing the use of chemotherapy at home with local pharmacy teams and community nurses to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus
- Multiple same day tests to minimise patient visits
- Expand cancer hubs so that surgeries can be restored to pre-pandemic levels
- Rollout of ‘COVID protected’ cancer hubs for treatment and online consultations so people do not have to go to hospitals for regular checks.
“While the NHS has pulled out all the stops to care for nearly 100,000 older and vulnerable patients who have needed emergency hospital treatment for COVID-19, staff have also worked hard to sustain other services including A&E, maternity care and treatment for urgent and emergency conditions,” said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens.
“Hospitals are going to great lengths to deliver care and treatment for patients in a safe space, from online consultations to chemo buses and COVID-free surgical hubs. The NHS is also accelerating access to new treatment options, including SABR – a potentially life-saving form of precision radiotherapy for people with cancer.”