Better treatment access for cancer patients

Improving access to radiation therapy for cancer patients is the focus of a new program to be rolled out across Australia.

With new funding from the Federal Department of Health and Ageing, Monash University will lead a national program designed to address predicted delays in access to radiation treatment due to increasing demand in an ageing population.

The national education program for postgraduate radiation therapists aims to reduce the pressure on radiation oncologists, who prescribe radiation therapy, by up-skilling radiation therapists to become advanced practitioners. 

The new professional role will utilise advanced clinical skills to perform traditional medical tasks on behalf of the radiation oncologist, generating a more efficient and streamlined radiation therapy service that optimises patient care.

Project Leader Kristie Matthews from Monash University’s Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences said that with an ageing population, radiotherapy services at the current growth rate were unlikely to meet public demand in the next decade.

“The demand on radiation oncologists’ time is enormous and as radiation therapists we see the impact even minor treatment delays can have on the patients’ heath and well-being,” Ms Matthews said.

“What we are trying to achieve in the advanced practice roles is a method of restructuring the workforce to streamline the anticipated increase in demand.

“Patients will benefit from this new national curriculum that allows radiation therapists to acquire a clinical set of skills to become Advanced Practitioners, ultimately enhancing treatment delivery and access.”

It is hoped the $777,239 grant will see the program rolled out in Australian universities by mid-2014.

“We’ve seen a similar model developed in the UK to address these challenges and we know it works,” Ms Matthews said.

Led by Caroline Wright and Kristie Matthews of the School of Biomedical Sciences at Monash, the program is being developed in collaboration with the University of Sydney, RMIT University, University of Newcastle, Queensland University of Technology, and the University of South Australia.

Monash University