As we publish this issue (28 Sept) Prime Minister Johnson is set to announce a £200 million cash injection to replace MRI machines, CT scanners and breast screening equipment.

Of European countries only Hungary has fewer MRI and CT scanners per head than the UK. Delays are growing and targets are being missed in the treatment of cancer.

The Health Foundation estimates much more (£1.5bn) would be needed to bring the UK up to EU average provision.

The funding that has now been promised is expected to provide 300 diagnostic machines in hospitals across England, although the ancillary costs of modifying or extending buildings and facilities are not covered.

Johnson’s promise received a critical response from Cancer Research UK, which told ITV News that the machines themselves are not enough: staffing shortages in the NHS need rectifying as a priority. “These new machines will only work if there is staff to operate them.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Hancock was “yet again following our lead” with the announcement. The Department of Health said the machines, to go to more than 80 trusts, will improve efficiency and improve patient safety by delivering lower radiation levels.

Meanwhile NHS England has been seeking to push through plans that fragment and privatise the provision of specialist PET-CT scanning services in Oxfordshire and elsewhere.

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