A national audit of radiotherapy in head and neck cancer

N. D. James, G. Robertson, C. J. Squire, H. Forbes, K. Jones, B. Cottier, RB Buchanan, A Barrett, S Karp, EJ Maher, RD James, G Read, AP Hinks

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Aims: To undertake a national audit of radiotherapy practice in head and neck cancer to estimate compliance with published guidelines and national standards.

Methods: A two-part electronic data entry form was distributed to all U.K. radiotherapy centres in September 2000. The first part examined the centres' policies for managing interruptions, the second collected summaries of the management of 50 consecutive patients treated in each centre for head and neck cancer. The outcome measures were: frequency and causes of interruptions to therapy; policy and compliance with policy for managing interruptions; prolongation; and time between first visit to clinic and start of treatment.

Results: Fifty-five out of 56 centres returned data on a total of 2553 patients. Overall, 1467 (55%) patients had one or more treatment interruptions. Of patients whose treatment was interrupted, 56% still completed on time due to compensatory steps, but in 32% no attempted compensation was undertaken. Seven centres had no policy for dealing with treatment interruptions. Centres whose policies included treatment on bank (public) holidays achieved higher compliance and fewer prolonged cases than those whose policies did not. Average time from first visit to head and neck oncology clinic to starting radiotherapy was 40 days; six centres had an average wait of less than 28 days.

Conclusions: This audit demonstrates wide variations in the quality of care between centres, failure to comply with guidelines for compensation for gaps and failure to meet national targets (for waiting times) that have serious implications both for patient outcomes and for the success of the National Cancer Plan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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