A National Audit of Waiting Times for Radiotherapy

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Earlier this year the Faculty of Clinical Oncology published its updated guidance on medical manpower and workload in the United Kingdom. This document clearly defined the increasing pressures on clinical time in recent years and recommended that a maximum number of 315 new patients each year should be seen by any one consultant. Many clinical oncologists, however, are seeing far in excess of this number, yet because they work excessive hours under great pressure, waiting times for consultations are minimal. But if radiotherapy is then recommended no amount of extra effort by the doctor can overcome shortages of equipment or lack of specialised staff needed for its operation. This audit was therefore carried out to see whether delays exist between the time a consultant recommends radiotherapy and the time treatment can begin.

In parallel with this audit of waiting times for radiotherapy, the Faculty has published the results of its survey of workload, equipment and manpower. This reveals a depressing picture of a growing workload outstripping the resources available to meet this demand. Our audit documents the inevitable consequence of such a deficit: an unacceptable delay in treatment in many parts of the United Kingdom.

This report provides a precise baseline of the present position and restates previously agreed national targets which should be met.