Radiotherapy waiting times, resources and protocols for breast carcinoma: A survey of UK radiotherapy centres
Probst H., Holmes M., Dodwell D.
Purpose: Radiation techniques employed for breast cancer must be efficient as well as effective in order to minimise waiting lists. Protocol restrictions, or the technical application of treatment, may influence planning and treatment times as radiographers follow departmental policies. A national survey of UK radiotherapy centres was undertaken to establish trends in waiting times for breast cancer irradiation; and to investigate relationships of waiting times with the deployment of equipment and personnel and technical procedures adopted. Method: A questionnaire was posted to the Head of Radiotherapy Services and a Clinical Oncologist with an interest in breast cancer in the radiotherapy centres in the UK. Survey questions investigated a number of issues, including the number of breast patients planned per week; protocols chosen; average treatment and planning times; levels of personnel and equipment; and the population served. Results: A total of 53 centres were contacted, of which 51 centres responded to some aspect of the survey (96%). Average waiting times for treatment fluctuated from 1 to 7 weeks and maximum waiting times of 11 weeks were reported. Variation in clinical practice was found, including procedure times and the number of radiographers employed per linear accelerator. A multiple regression analysis indicated that a combination of equipment levels, simulation times, and the number of breast contours taken best predicted the average waiting time for breast treatment. Conclusion: Waiting times reported were influenced by a combination of levels of equipment available and protocols adopted. © 2003, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.