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Proton beam therapy

Published on 21 April 2022

High intensity proton beam therapy (PBT) is a type of precision radiotherapy. It's a treatment for specific types of cancer, such as highly complex brain, head and neck cancers and sarcomas.

Protons can precisely target a tumour, reducing the damage to surrounding healthy tissues and vital organs. This is an advantage in certain groups of patients, or where the cancer is close to a critical part of the body – such as the spinal cord.

Where is proton beam therapy available for UK residents?

Proton beam therapy has been on offer for eligible patients since 2009 in America and Germany. Since 2018, the service has been available from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester. You can find out more on their website. A new service is also expected to begin in summer 2020 at University College London Hospital, London.

When fully operational, both UK centres will treat patients from across the whole of the UK. Travel abroad may still be a requirement for some patients, depending upon individual clinical assessments.

Who is eligible for PBT?

Initial assessment of a patient’s eligibility for this treatment is conducted by a local multidisciplinary team of clinical professionals. If they reach an agreement, the case is referred to a panel of specialists in Scotland for further assessment. If endorsed, it’s finally referred to a UK panel that has Scottish representation. They consider suitability for PBT on clinical grounds and ensure it meets UK level criteria.

If successful, the panel will confirm the most appropriate location for treatment. Only patients with consideration and approval at this national level will receive funding for their cases from NHSScotland.

Our role in delivering PBT care

We work very closely with commissioning colleagues in NHS England to ensure equitable access to PBT for eligible Scottish patients. We also act as administrators of the Risk Share funds, which fund the providers of the treatment on behalf of NHS boards in Scotland.

We have no role in the clinical decision-making process regarding the suitability of PBT, or the delivery location.

NSD contacts

NSD Specialist Services

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice.