Skip to main content


Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 224533, tabled on 20 February 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of a shortage of radioisotopes on the number of breast cancer diagnostic and treatment procedures.

Answered on

28 February 2019

A search of the Department’s Ministerial correspondence database has identified one item of correspondence received since 1 August 2018 about alternative arrangements for breast cancer diagnostic and treatment procedures in the event that there is a shortage of radioisotopes in the United Kingdom. This figure represents correspondence received by the Department’s Ministerial correspondence unit only.

We fully recognise that radioisotopes are vitally important to many people in this country including breast cancer patients. HM Revenue and Customs already has a process to identify ‘urgent goods’, such as medical radioisotopes, requiring faster handling to move through customs and border checks promptly. The Department has well established processes to manage and mitigate the small number of medicines shortages that may arise due to manufacturing or distribution issues. These processes include radioisotopes used in breast cancer diagnostic and treatment procedures.

From January 2019, it became a mandatory requirement that the pharmaceutical industry must report this information to the Department in a timely manner. Following notification and risk assessment, the Department’s medicine supply team will continue to work behind the scenes with relevant stakeholders and use a host of tools to help mitigate and prevent an issue from impacting patients including the consideration of alternative treatment options. The Department is not aware of any significant radioisotope shortages that are currently affecting breast cancer patients.

Answered by

Department of Health and Social Care