Last year we asked supporters to sign a petition for better access to ground-breaking mpMRI scans for men in Wales. Our Policy Manager, Tim Windle, gives an update on the progress made so far.
Signing a petition can be a small act for an individual alone, but when thousands of people join together those small acts can count for a lot. This is what we were hoping for when, in the summer of 2018, we asked you to add your signature to a petition calling for men in Wales to have access to the best diagnostic techniques.
Multiparametric MRI before biopsy (mpMRI) is a game changer for prostate cancer. It offers more accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer and can help some men avoid an invasive, and sometimes painful, prostate cancer biopsy. That’s why we’re working hard to ensure that all men have access to this breakthrough.
While Prostate Cancer UK can’t buy hospitals MRI scanners, we are doing all we can to make it as easy as possible to introduce mpMRI before biopsy.
The petition was started by men in North Wales suggesting that ‘all men in Wales should have access through the NHS to the best possible diagnostic tests for prostate cancer’. Over the next few months, they secured the 5,000 signatures needed for it to be considered for further action by the Welsh Assembly.
The debate was held on 6 March 2019 and it was good to see five Welsh Assembly Members speaking on the topic, which reflects the importance of this issue and is a testament to the work by campaigners in Wales. The Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, replied with an update on the progress that has been made so far and offered to update Welsh Assembly members again soon on the timescales and targets around the introduction of mpMRI in Wales.
We were pleased that the Assembly held a debate and brought attention to the issue. This update from the Minister was in line with what we expected given that we have been a part of the progress that he mentioned.
Some hospitals struggle to offer mpMRI because they don’t have enough MRI scanners or because of a UK-wide shortage of radiologists. While Prostate Cancer UK can’t buy hospitals MRI scanners, we are doing all we can to support them to overcome these barriers by making it as easy as possible to introduce mpMRI before biopsy.
Much of this work has been going on behind the scenes. Health Boards in Wales have been working with the Welsh Government, NHS Wales and with Prostate Cancer UK to develop plans to implement mpMRI. Encouragingly, we understand that the Prince of Wales Hospital in Swansea has recently begun offering this technique and we expect more progress in the coming months.
Access to mpMRI before biopsy is improving across the country, but we really hope that this coordinated approach will mean that in the coming months all men in Wales are able to boast that their country is a world-leader in the availability of this technique. Watch this space.