Ryall: Virtual Environment Radiation Therapy Training Launch
Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health
14 March 2013 Speech Notes
Virtual Environment Radiation Therapy Training Launch
Good morning and thank you for the introductions.
Thank you Professor Sunny Collings, Dean of University of Otago, Wellington, and thanks Karen Coleman, Head of Department of Radiation Therapy, University of Otago, Wellington.
I’m very pleased to be here today to launch this state-of-the art training equipment.
I think of the virtual environment radiation therapy training – or VERT - as the flight simulator of linear accelerators.
And I’m looking forward to putting on the 3-D glasses and viewing some virtual radiation therapy.
I’d also like to acknowledge Prof Peter Crampton, Pro Vice Chancellor, Health Sciences, University of Otago, • Dalton Kelly CEO, Cancer Society and Murray McCormick President of the NZ Cancer Society here today to launch VERT.
• make a positive contribution to the National led Government’s cancer health target
• enhance the education of radiation therapists in New Zealand and;
• enhance the radiation therapy and wider radiation oncology workforce.
VERT also exemplifies what you can get from a partnership approach between Student skills enhanced
VERT allows radiation therapy students to practice in a virtual environment.
Students will be able to gain the specialised skills to operate linear accelerators, as well as a deeper understanding of radiation therapy concepts to include the treatment plans, anatomy and complex cases.
VERT will enable students to visualise things that can’t be seen in a real treatment room, for example: internal structures, CT scans and visualisation of where the radiation is going.
This means that when the students come to do their clinical work, they are already familiar with the linear accelerators, and can undertake their clinical work more efficiently.
More efficient use of Linear Accelerators
Linear accelerator availability is a key factor in being able to meet the cancer target.
The more prepared and efficient students are when they use linear accelerators, the more time that these machines can be used to treat cancer patients.
I am aware that the five universities in Australia that provide radiation therapy education have been using VERT for the last year.
They predict that VERT will reduce the clinical placement time by four weeks for each student.
Enhance the radiation therapy and radiation oncology workforce
VERT may enable more radiation therapy students to be trained, as time in the clinical environment will be more efficient.
These Australian Universities also estimate VERT will potentially allow a 20 percent increased intake of students.
I understand that the University of Otago is currently working with the Australian universities to evaluate the efficiencies that VERT will bring to the education and thus clinical settings.
And as well as being used for educating radiation therapists, VERT will play a role in supporting the other professional groups in the radiation oncology sector – medical physicists, radiation oncologists and others in the multidisciplinary team.
VERT can be used to discuss complex treatment plans between these groups and support continuing professional education.
Improve patient experience
We are particularly focussed on improving patient experience of health services.
This is a priority.
I appreciate that when a person gets a diagnosis of cancer, things can seem pretty scary – especially big treatment machines.
I am really pleased to learn that VERT can be used to familiarise patients about their treatment prior to commencing a course of radiation therapy.
This is an excellent way to help reduce stress for patients.
Funding of VERT
The Government has contributed $1 million towards a one-off purchase of the hardware and software for VERT.
The University of Otago has provided the teaching staff and funding to remodel the buildings to house VERT.
It is very pleasing to see what can be done when health and education get together to improve healthcare.
Reduce radiotherapy wait times
The increasing burden of cancer as more of us live longer is a significant challenge for health services.
Cancer is one of our biggest killers and the fear of cancer weighs heavily on the minds of all New Zealanders.
The Government has a strong focus on improving cancer services for people with cancer.
Our approach is putting the patient first.
We want all people to easily access the best services, in a timely way, to improve overall cancer outcomes.
Reducing the wait times for radiotherapy is a key priority for the Government.
Cancer Treatment Targets
This Government has seen waiting times for radiation treatment reduce from up to 18 weeks only six years ago to a maximum of four weeks since 2008.
We’ve invested in nine new linear accelerators since then.
The cancer treatment target expects that all patients, ready for treatment, receive radiotherapy or chemotherapy within four weeks.
From the beginning of July last year, chemotherapy wait times were added to the cancer health target.
All DHBs have achieved the radiation treatment four week wait times target for the last 18 months, including the combined radiation treatment and chemotherapy target since its introduction last year.
I am very pleased with this achievement and understand how much hard work DHB staff put into achieving the target.
Other cancer service improvement activities
This Government is achieving a great deal in improving cancer services for patients.
This includes national service planning for radiation oncology services.
This will provide advice to DHBs on how to ensure there is an appropriately skilled workforce and sufficient linear accelerators and other equipment for future radiotherapy service delivery.
And we are spending $33 million over four years on the faster cancer treatment programme – faster access to high quality diagnostic and secondary care services.
This programme puts the patient’s journey first - their surgical and non-surgical cancer treatment.
It includes the development of best practice standards for eight of the more common tumour types to promote uniform service provision across New Zealand.
Dedicated Cancer Nurse Coordinators
We are establishing 40 dedicated cancer nurse coordinators to act as a single point of contact so patients and their families no longer have to deal with multiple people from different parts of the health service.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a difficult time for patients and their families.
This more personalised service will mean better treatment and a less stressful experience for patients.
Research shows some cancer patients can come into contact with up to 28 doctors, and even more nurses, throughout their treatment.
This expands what is already happening in parts of the country, and the feedback from patients has been fantastic.
Nursing has also warmly welcomed this new role, which will vastly improve the treatment experience for patients by reducing delays, stress and duplication.
We could not meet our cancer treatment targets without the radiation therapy workforce.
We all know staff at cancer centres work extended hours, including weekends to maintain target achievement.
I would like to thank them for the work they do.
And the VERT training facility should help them here.
It will contribute to improving healthcare by better preparing students for the clinical environment so their clinical time will be used more efficiently.
I look forward to seeing VERT in action.