Radiography experts say University of Portsmouth course closure could threaten cancer treatment

The University of Portsmouth has taken the decision to close their radiotherapy and oncology course.
The University of Portsmouth has taken the decision to close their radiotherapy and oncology course.
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THE UNIVERSITY of Portsmouth has been criticised over its decision to close a radiotherapy and oncology course as concerns have been raised over cancer treatments.

As reported, the university has decided to stop running the course, which trains people to detect and treat cancerous tumours, by 2020. 

Jodie Sexton

Jodie Sexton

The Society of Radiographers chief executive officer, Richard Evans, has written to the university, condemning its decision.

Mr Evans’ letter said: ‘Abandoning the course will affect the most important stakeholders - the public of Portsmouth and the whole of the south of England, who will see their prospects of cancer treatment compromised by the closure.

‘The small workforce, and the limited number of training programmes available across the UK, is causing great concern. To close the programme at Portsmouth is devastating.’

Mr Evans is concerned about whether the region’s hospitals will be able to recruit enough people trained in cancer detection and treatment, and .whether medical practitioners had been consulted.

The University of Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

The University of Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

‘It would be helpful to understand what discussions the university had with radiotherapy leaders as it considered closing the programme,’ he said.

Second year student Jodie Sexton, 36, is also concerned about the staffing repercussions.

‘As part of my course, I have placements at Queen Alexandra and Southampton General Hospital,’ said Jodie. ‘At least a third of the radiographers who work there are alumni of the University of Portsmouth. Staffing will definitely be affected. You need to treat cancers in a specific time period but if you have a shortage of staff there will inevitably be an impact on the capacity of hospitals to provide treatment.’

Course student representative Jodie feels the university’s decision has left many prospective students in a difficult position. 

‘Originally the university said it was going to postpone the 2019 course for a year. A number of students who deferred on this premise have now been left without a course,’ claimed Jodie.

Having been involved in the recruitment process, she feels disappointed.

Jodie added: ‘I feel let down as I was involved in promoting this year’s course and am still in contact with a number of people who were dependent on places. Portsmouth was the only university in the area to run the course – now the closest is London.’

Jodie claimed she was informed the course originally needed 15 people to run but this was later moved to 30.

However the university has replied that there were not enough students for the course to be viable.
A spokesperson said: ‘The course is closing due to ongoing declining demand for radiotherapy courses, both here and nationally. We have worked with placement providers, Health Education England and the Society and College of Radiographers in trying to address this trend. We consistently provided additional resources for marketing and outreach activities and bid for extra funding, targeted at raising the profile of our own course and the profession itself. 
‘Despite these efforts, only two students had confirmed they wanted to study radiotherapy and oncology with us in the 2019/20 academic year and four more that had an offer of a place, dependent on their A-levels.

‘This was a difficult decision. As an experienced provider of health and social care higher education courses, we did not take this decision lightly.’