Editorials

Reducing harm from radiotherapy

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39112.454387.BE (Published 08 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:272
  1. Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England (liam.donaldson@dh.gsi.gov.uk)
  1. 1Department of Health, London SW1A 2NS

    Healthcare systems should follow the lead developed in other high risk industries

    Like most treatments, radiotherapy has the power to heal but also to harm.1 Worldwide, around 10 million people are newly diagnosed with cancer each year and 40-50% will receive radiotherapy.2 In the United Kingdom, around 200 linear accelerators deliver 100 000 courses of radiotherapy in 1.5 million fractions annually; this results in roughly 4.25 million doses of radiation for cancer treatment each year (data from the Health Protection Agency (www.hpa.org.uk/) and the National Cancer Services Analysis Team (www.canceruk.net/)).

    Because of the hazardous nature of radiation, an extensive framework of protocols, standards, and legislation is in place to protect patients and healthcare workers.3 4 5 6 The World Health Organization World Alliance for Patient Safety has this year taken up the challenge of making radiotherapy safer (www.who.int/patientsafety/en). It will deal with two key questions. Firstly, can standardised safety interventions be developed that reliably and consistently …

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