Former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio has written a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt describing NHS England as a "national disgrace" for going back on a deal to fund cutting-edge cancer treatment, it was reported today.
Dallaglio accused the health service of "turning the clock back" on the way the disease is being treated by not paying for patients to have stereotactic radiotherapy.
The sports star turned charity campaigner, who lost his mother Eileen to cancer in 2008, was asked to work with NHS England on the issue after previously approaching Prime Minister David Cameron with his concerns that not enough patients had access to the treatment.
The process involves targeting radiotherapy very precisely at the tumour, meaning that high doses of radiation can be delivered with less risk of it affecting surrounding organs, but the number of people being offered it has fallen by more than 10% since NHS England took control, the Sunday Times said.
In Dallaglio's letter, parts of which are published in the paper, he accused NHS England of "going back on its word".
He told Mr Hunt: " The way NHS England are approaching this is turning the clock back on the way we're treating cancer. We're not just standing still and doing nothing, we're turning the clock back . It angers me."
He added that the technology that "the rest of the civilised world uses as a matter of routine" would only be used by "pitiful numbers", without a guarantee they would even start being treated in the next financial year.
The sportsman, who won the rugby union World Cup in 2003, has raised millions of pounds for charity since launching the Dallaglio Foundation following his mother's death.
Dr Sean Duffy, NHS England's National Clinical Director For Cancer, said: " If money were no object it would be great to fund every experimental treatment that we are lobbied on, but that's not the reality, so instead our priority this year has been investing hundreds of millions of pounds in cancer and other specialised treatments that are actually proven to work for patients."