Report on UK’s Supply of Medical Radioisotopes written by CDT student Informs Parliamentary Debates
A Parliamentary policy report co-written by one of our CDT students, Mark Graham, has been released at a pressing moment as the issue of the UK’s supply of medical radioisotopes hits the headlines. The report highlights the challenges ahead around securing the UK’s future supply of medical radioisotopes and the potential implications of this for cancer patients’ treatment.
Mark worked on this as part of an RCUK scheme that places PhD students in policy organisations. He spent three months working at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and co-wrote this report, known as a POSTnote, alongside Sarah Bunn with the intention of briefing MPs and Lords on the issue.
The first section of the report emphasises the critical role of radioactive isotopes within medicine and research, and highlights the impact that a shortage of radioisotopes would have nationally on patients’ health. Radioisotopes play a key role in diagnosing and treating cancer in the UK, with more than 10,000 cancer patients being treated through their use and about half a million scans performed annually using radioisotopes too.
Crucially they are made outside the UK in ageing nuclear research reactors, meaning that the UK’s supply is dependent on agreements with international producers. This makes the security of future supplies vulnerable to the changing political climate, particularly in the context of the UK leaving the EU. Further, the rapid radioactive decay of radioisotopes means that they cannot be stockpiled and makes the need to secure long-term, stable supply routes even more critical.
The second section of the report focuses on this angle, outlining the challenges for the UK in ensuring their future supply chain, concerns about the potential implications of Brexit and possible steps that could be made to mitigate these effects. One of the most pressing issues to come out of this is the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), a European regulatory body that governs civilian nuclear activity and ensures safe supply and usage of medical radioisotopes. There are concerns about the potential implications that leaving EURATOM may have for medical access to radioisotopes.
The POSTnote was released yesterday and is helping to provide well-researched, impartial analysis on this timely issue. All MPs involved in yesterday’s debate on EURATOM membership were given the report as briefing. Mark’s involvement in this report for Parliament illustrates the important role the research community plays in engaging with public policy and policy makers in healthcare.