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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK


Lottery cancer cash row

Money will be spent on sophisticated scanning equipment

Doctors have attacked a fund that will use £150m of lottery cash to buy hi-tech equipment for hospitals across the UK, saying the money should come from the NHS.

BBC News' Gillian Hargreaves gauges the public mood
The New Opportunities Fund was officially launched on Wednesday, and the bulk of it will be spent on breast screening equipment, MRI scanners and radiotherapy machines.

But another substantial slice will go to pay for projects in palliative care and health promotion.

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) has criticised the fund, saying that lottery money should not be spent on the health service.

And the Royal College of Radiologists has said the money will be used to replace outdated machinary - the only new equipment will go to areas that should have had it long ago.

What it will buy

Health Secretary Frank Dobson: Only a few oddballs object
Approximately £116m will be spent in England, £17.25m in Scotland, £9.75m in Wales and £6.75m in Northern Ireland.

In England, the fund will cover £93m worth of equipment.

This includes:

  • 229 X-ray machines for breast screening
  • 47 ultrasound machines for breast screening
  • 18 MRI scanners
  • 47 linear accelerators (used to target radiotherapy)

Health Secretary Frank Dobson welcomed the fund's launch.

[ image: Frank Dobson welcomed the money]
Frank Dobson welcomed the money
"Cancer patients at more than 200 hospitals throughout the country will benefit from this huge investment - the biggest ever boost for cancer services," he said.

"Cancer equipment has traditionally been the subject of local fundraising campaigns and voluntary groups. This is an area that traditionally has not received a lot of NHS funding."

He added: "Most lottery players would rather see their money going on this than almost any other thing."

The fund's chairman, Baroness Pithkeathley, insisted that lottery cash was not being used in place of NHS investment.

"Where hospitals already have money in their budgets for equipment, we have not given them a grant."


However, a spokesman for the BMA said: "We think it is sad and disappointing that the government is reinforcing the fundraising approach to health rather than providing adequate funding for the NHS through taxation."

[ image: Radiotherapy services will benefit most]
Radiotherapy services will benefit most
The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) said the cash would only "begin to address several years backlog of underinvestment".

It has produced studies - supported by Department of Health statistics - that show "major inequalities" in access to such essential equipment across the NHS.

"Even when equality of access and provision is reached, the number of linear accelerators in the UK will still be considerably lower than other comparable European countries," Dr Dan Ash, vice-president of the RCR.

"During the same period those countries will also be enhancing their own services."

Cancer programme

The government has set ambitious targets to reduce death rates from cancer in people under 75 by at least a fifth by the year 2010, which, if achieved, would save aproximately 100,000 lives every year.

A spokesman for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund welcomed the announcement, adding: "We are keen that the government keeps up the good work.

"The provision of cancer equipment needs to be kept under continuous review to make sure that everyone in the UK has equal access to treatment with the best cancer equipment available."

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