“Draconian” cuts to the NHS are putting cancer patients’ lives at risk, according to some of Britain’s leading doctors and surgeons.
In a leaked letter of complaint to NHS England, 13 clinicians complained about a lack of trained staff, restrictions on the use of advanced radiotherapy and multi-million pound machines used to treat cancer being left “idle”.
They also voiced their anger at plans to close of 18 specialist centres that treat victims of brain cancer.
The letter, signed by every regional representative of the Radiosurgery Clinical Review Group in England, said: “There is significant concern about potential risk of harming individual patients due to delayed treatment.”
Consultant neurosurgeon Matthias Radatz, who wrote the letter, told the Mirror newspaper: “The changes last year were Draconian and patients who wait for radiosurgery have been left totally in limbo.
“To the layman, it’s appalling. To the expert, it’s appalling.”
He accused NHS England, which was set up in October 2012, of “acting out of spite or ignorance”.
Mr Radatz said they had offered to help “but I’ve had no feedback to this letter yet” from the health service managers.
A senior NHS source, who was also involved in the letter, told the paper: “This is a cry for help from the very best cancer doctors this country has to offer.
“Radiotherapy has descended into chaos in just one year under NHS England. New cancer centres have been cancelled and machines worth millions are sitting idle in hospitals because NHS England’s bureaucrats refuse to let them be used on NHS patients.
“David Cameron promised us more radiotherapy for more cancer patients, we can see today that NHS England is making him look like a fool.”
Labour MP Grahame Morris said he was “disturbed about the contents of this letter from such senior neurosurgeons”.
“It shows the depth of concern about changes in the NHS which will restrict access to life-saving treatments,” he said.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “On behalf of patients, we have to get our resources in the right place to benefit the most patients.
“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.
“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.
“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.”