The UK government has established a new radiotherapy fund to help almost 8,000 cancer patients a year benefit from best available treatment.

The new Cancer Radiotherapy Innovation Fund is designed to boost the NHS' ability to provide life-saving advanced radiotherapy techniques.

Until April 2013, £15 million is being made available by the government - from underspend arising from the Cancer Drugs Fund - to help more patients get access to the radiotherapy treatment they need.

After this time, cancer treatments will be planned and paid for nationally by the new NHS Commissioning Board, which aims to remove the current postcode lottery of access to radiotherapy treatment, guaranteeing innovative radiotherapy where clinically appropriate, safe and cost effective.

Some of the cash will be used to accelerate the use of Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) - a technique that enables more targeted and more precise doses of radiation at a tumour, minimising the impact on surrounding healthy tissue, it said. According to the Department of Health, the move to establish the fund was spurred by the realisation that not all patients who could benefit from this type of therapy were getting access to it.

Lagging behind

The UK has long lagged behind its peers in terms of cancer survival rates according to the DH, and the government wants to ensure that "cancer services in England are world class and that NHS patients receive the best quality treatments that are available," said the newly appointed health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Andrew Wilson, chair of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, said the move is 'good news' for patients. "It is important that doctors make full use of both the radiotherapy fund and the Cancer Drugs Fund, ensuring that patients get access to the most appropriate treatments for them," he said, adding: "Using one form of treatment should never come at the expense of another if both are clinically appropriate.”