A STATE-OF-THE-ART cancer centre is Newport lying empty while treatment waiting lists in Wales grow to record levels has been branded "a national scandal".

World-leading oncology physician Professor Karol Sikora has sent an open letter to Judith Paget of NHS Wales, health minister Eluned Morgan, and Siôn Jones of Equitix COO - which owns the Rutherford Cancer Centre in Marshfield - proposing a summit to reopen the facility.

Three centres, in Newport, Reading and Northumberland, have been closed for nearly 18 months, despite record cancer backlogs in the UK.

The centres contain cutting-edge technology such as a comprehensive range of diagnostic scanners, state-of-the-art linear accelerators, 12 bay chemotherapy suites and proton beam therapy machines.

The letter by Professor Sikora - himself former medical director of Rutherford - explains that the centres were forced to close their doors in June 2022 "following financial difficulties experienced during the pandemic".

"I take my share of the responsibility for that, but I am determined to see this equipment treating patients again," he said.

"I spent over 40 years in the NHS working in oncology, with almost half a century in the field overall.

"I can honestly say that the current state of UK cancer services is far worse than I have ever seen before."

Professor Sikora said that it would be no exaggeration to say that the proton-capable Rutherford centres in Newport, Northumberland and Reading are "among the very best I have ever seen".

"To have them sitting empty at a time of record waits and unnecessary deaths is truly a national scandal," he said.

Roughly 20,000 patients a year could benefit from using the network - delivering radiotherapy, chemotherapy and the state-of-the-art proton beam therapy.

"That extra boost in capacity would help to eradicate the backlog and save countless lives," Professor Sikora said.

"Little to no progress has been made and the facilities continue to gather dust. We must all agree that this is not in the public interest."

Professor Sikora has proposed a meeting between government, the NHS and Equitix to find a solution.

"Quite frankly, I don’t care how it’s done. I just know that it needs to be done," he said.

"Tens of thousands of patients would benefit, cutting down waiting times and undoubtedly savings lives."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The former Rutherford Cancer Centre in Newport is a privately-owned facility.

"The Welsh Government has not been approached by the facility’s new owners to discuss what, if any, future role it could play in working with NHS Wales services.

“Velindre University NHS Trust provides radiotherapy and systemic anti-cancer therapy services to the population of South East Wales. The Welsh Government is investing in its capacity to deliver the required cancer care services for the population of south east Wales.”