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Radiotherapy relies on the use of radiation to treat illness and is an important part of overall cancer management and treatment.

NHS England’s Radiotherapy Dataset reports that there were 134,419 radiotherapy episodes in England in 2021/22. This is 4.1% lower than the pre-pandemic (2019/20) level of 140,142. An episode is defined as a continuous period of care for radiotherapy including all preparation, planning and delivery.


The independent cancer taskforce’s five-year strategy for cancer, Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015- 2020 (PDF) noted the advances that have been made in radiotherapy technology have not always been consistently adopted across the NHS in England.

Clinical oncologists are the doctors responsible for prescribing radiotherapy to treat cancer. The Royal College of Radiologists’ Clinical Oncology Workforce Census 2022 found that, in England, there is a 15% shortfall in oncologists, which will rise to 24% by 2027 without action. It also found there is a postcode lottery in access to clinical oncologists across the country – especially in rural areas. In London, there are 5.6 oncologists per 100,000 of the older population, compared to only 2.9 in the East Midlands.

In June 2023, NHS England published the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, as commissioned by the Government. Actions in the plan are backed by £2.4 billion in Government funding up to 2028/29. The plans set out education and training expansion and reform to address shortages in particular health professions. For allied health professions (AHPs), including therapeutic radiographers who can deliver radiotherapy, the plan projects an increase of 71,000 to 76,000 AHPs. It also aims for at least 80% of therapeutic radiographers to join the AHP workforce via an apprenticeship route by 2031/32.

NHS England’s radiotherapy modernisation programme began in 2016 with the aim of implementing a long-term solution to equipment replacement; and increasing access to innovative radiotherapy treatments and modern care. Part of the programme includes the commissioning of 11 Radiotherapy Operational Delivery Networks across England. This programme is aimed at improving access to and reducing variation in the quality of radiotherapy services.

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