A shorter radiotherapy regime for prostate cancer that uses stronger doses could save NHS millions of pounds and save patients from having to make as many trips to the hospital without compromising safety or efficacy.

Research published in The Lancet shows that the shorter course involving 20 doses of radiotherapy compared to the standard 37, is as effective as the current standard treatment for both survival and quality of life.

The new regime would mean 17 fewer hospital trips and complex radiotherapy treatments for each patient, leading to a reduction nationally of more than 150,000 visits per year, saving tens of millions of pounds per year.

The trial also showed that treatment with fewer, higher doses of intensity-modulated radiotherapy was associated with less than half the rate of side-effects of older conformal radiotherapy.

The researchers said the findings of the 14-year study, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, support a change in clinical practice for prostate cancer radiotherapy with the 20-dose schedule becoming the new standard.

"We already know many centres have already switched to the new regime, and we hope it will soon become the new standard of care for prostate cancer treatment on the NHS," said study co-leader Dr Emma Hall, deputy director of the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London.

Similar studies by the same research group - led by the ICR and The Royal Marsden, and including more than 70 UK centres - proved the benefits of fewer, higher doses of radiation in breast cancer, which has saved the NHS around £50 million a year since 2009.