Dr Nicola Strickland, President of The Royal College of Radiologists, said:
“Radioactive isotopes play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating cancer in the UK. Material used for PET/CT scanning is manufactured in the UK. The rest of our supply of radioisotopes – used in scanning and the systemic and internal treatment of a wide range of cancers – is imported from Europe and further afield. Recent data show that in England around half a million scans are performed annually using imported radioisotopes*, while more than 10,000 patients across the UK have their cancers directly treated by these materials**.
“The Royal College of Radiologists, like others in medicine and industry, is seriously concerned about continued access to these materials if we leave the Euratom treaty under Brexit.
“So far, there is little certainty about what leaving Euratom might actually mean in practical terms. Government officials have given general assurances they will consult with industry over nuclear safeguarding. The Royal College of Radiologists is adamant that they must do just that, and soon. Navigating Brexit is undoubtedly a huge task for ministers, but our access to these vital materials for diagnosing and treating cancer must not be left to slip down the negotiations list.
“We need assurances the radiation safety laws and regulations around movement of radioactive materials enshrined in Euratom will continue in the form of mirrored legislation post-Brexit. Another concern is whether we could see increased radioisotope pricing as a result of leaving Euratom. Any future restricted access has the potential to delay diagnosing and treating cancer in thousands of UK patients and to add more costs to an already cash-strapped NHS.”
*NHS England Diagnostic imaging dataset 2016-17: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/08/Provisional-Monthly-Diagnostic-Imaging-Dataset-Statistics-2017-05-18.pdf
** British Nuclear Medicine Society 2010 Survey, cited in “The Future Supply of Medical Radioisotopes for the UK”: http://www.bnms.org.uk/images/stories/moly_updates/BN6249-RadioisotopesReportLIVE_v5_2.pdf