The UK’s National Proton Beam Therapy Service

PBT uses a high-energy beam of particles to destroy cancer cells by more accurately targeting the affected areas and is particularly suitable for complex childhood cancers. It also increases success rates and reduces side effects, such as deafness, loss of IQ and secondary cancers.

For patients with highly specific types of cancer that occur in the brain and near the spine, PBT can be better than conventional radiotherapy as it precisely targets the tumour, giving better dose distribution and not harming critical tissues. 

With no proton beam therapy (PBT) service available in the UK, in 2008 a scheme was set up to send selected NHS patients abroad for the treatment in Switzerland, Florida and Oklahoma. So far this has meant that 80 patients have been treated abroad, with payment made the NHS. The government has pledged to increase this to 400 patients a year by 2013-14. However, it is acknowledged that for many patients with cancer, travelling abroad is inappropriate due to the additional worry and many require other treatments alongside PBT.

Now, from 2016, England will have its own purpose-built National Health Service (NHS) facilities in a Government plan to invest up to £150 million (€180 million) in procuring a PBT radiotherapy cancer service The Department of Health has been working with three sites – in Manchester, London and Birmingham – as potential providers of the service, but a final decision has yet to be made on whether these are the best locations for the therapy. 


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