A key cancer treatment which could save lives is going to be made available to all cancer centres in England in the next year.
The NHS announcement is in response to an open letter signed by more than 200 cancer experts warning the treatment was being “rationed”, as reported exclusively by Sky News last month.
The experts had said failure to act would be a “tragic lost opportunity”.
The stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) treatment is more precise and uses a higher dose than standard radiotherapy – cutting down the number of hospital visits vulnerable cancer patients will need to make.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens says the innovative treatment will be “potentially life-saving”.
The treatment is currently used by around half of cancer centres and was going to be fully rolled out by 2022, but experts warned urgent action needed to be taken to help deal with a backlog of cancer cases as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of cancer patients have had treatments cancelled or postponed, while fewer cancers are currently being diagnosed.
More from Cancer
A study by the University of Birmingham estimates 36,000 cancer procedures have been cancelled in the UK.
Cancer sufferers who face delays to their treatment are more likely to suffer complications and are more at risk of dying.
Dr Clive Peedell, a consultant clinical oncologist who wrote the open letter along with Action Radiotherapy, said he applauded the decision.
“I think its really important during this time because we know theres going to be a really big cancer backlog and anything we can do to increase our capacity to treat cancer patients during this time will help,” he said.
“There will certainly be patients who can have stereotactic radiotherapy instead of surgery because theres going to be big surgical waiting lists.”
William Robinson, 83, was diagnosed with a tumour on his lung after having a stent put in his heart in March.
The great-grandfather, from Middlesbrough, received one round of the SABR treatment and said: “It was excellent. It went great and Ive been alright since.”
He said it was a “big surprise” he had been treated so quickly and praised the staff who looked after him.
SABR will initially be used to treat some tumours in the lungs, lymph nodes and bones, but will later be expanded to treat other cancers.