Revealed: New £4m cancer centre to stop north Norfolk patients' agony of travelling for treatment when sick
PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:38 07 April 2019
Plans for a new £4.15m cancer centre for north Norfolk have been revealed, which could stop those suffering with the dreadful disease having to travel miles for treatment.
The new centre, which is planned for Cromer Hospital, is a partnership between the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), which owns the site, and charity Macmillian Cancer Support.
It is hoped it would help people like 69-year-old Patricia Doidge, from Cromer, who was diagnosed sarcoma, a rare kind of cancer, in February last year.
The treatment she needs is not available at NNUH or Cromer Hospital, so she needs to travel to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to receive chemotherapy.
The journey takes two and a half hours by train, but even for those in north Norfolk who can be treated at NNUH, the journey can be more than an hour each way.
Mrs Doidge, a retired business development manager, said: “My choice would have been to receive my chemotherapy at Cromer Hospital. However, at present the Muriel Thomas Unit can only allocate one morning per week to chemo and my infusions took around five hours, so this was not possible. Had the North Norfolk Macmillan Unit already existed I believe I would have benefitted.
“Chemotherapy can make you feel quite rough. Not having to travel while feeling unwell would be a huge benefit.
“Also seeing the same familiar faces, both the nursing staff and also other patients, the support of being able to get to know patients going through the same experiences with whom you can create a local support should not be underestimated.
“At a time when one’s life has been turned upside down, organising the practicalities can feel huge. For example, finding sometime to take you for each treatment. Will they stay all day with you or travel all the way back to Norwich a second time to collect you when your treatment is completed and will they have to take time off work to do this?
“What will the cost of all this travel be? Money can be an important issue, particularly if you cannot work while receiving treatment.
“Being told you have cancer comes as a huge shock, particularly if, as in my case, you have had almost no symptoms and thought you were well.
“Suddenly you enter this whirlwind of appointments, operations and further treatment options. You have difficult choices to face while also coping with how to tell family and friends and coping with all the practical changes which need to be made very quickly. To have a centre to turn to, with help to guide you through this new world and support you when it feels too much, will be an absolute blessing.”
In 2015, it was estimated that demand for cancer services within the NNUH would rocket by 200pc over ten years.
And currently most people from the Cromer area have to travel to Norwich for treatment.
The building, which will see the refurbishment and extension of a disused ward, will be called the North Norfolk Macmillan Centre.
The centre, on the site of the former Davison Unit, will include:
• Six chemotherapy treatment chairs with capacity to treat up to 36 patients a day.
• Three new clinic rooms and two new minor procedure rooms, creating an additional 10,000 outpatient appointments annually.
• A Macmillan cancer information and support centre.
• The new unit will also free up space in the main Cromer Hospital building to deliver an extra 600 surgical procedures in dermatology, urology, vascular surgery and pain management.
A planning application will be submitted later this year and, if granted, the building work is expected to take around a year.
The majority of funding for the centre will come from Macmillan Cancer Support, which is providing up to £2.2m and Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals Charity, which is contributing £1.5m. The remaining £450,000 is coming out of NNUH funds.
Professor Erika Denton, NNUH medical director, said: “Our cancer centre is one of the largest in the UK, treating 6,000 patients each year. We deliver a range of specialist services across Norfolk and further afield. Although patients will still need to come to Norwich for some of their appointments, this is a fantastic opportunity to deliver more care closer to people’s homes and reduce the number of journeys to Norwich.”
Gwyneth Tyler, Macmillan head of services for south and east England, said: “The number of people living with cancer is growing and predicted to rise from 2.5m today to four million by 2030. This centre will help to meet the growing need in north Norfolk and enable more people to get treatment and support closer to home.
“At Macmillan, we also know that cancer can affect every part of your life, not just your health and that’s why the centre will include a Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service.
“We are delighted to be working with the trust to improve cancer care for people in north Norfolk but we can only do so thanks to the public’s generous support for Macmillan. As a charity, we are entirely reliant on public donations and need the public’s continued support to enable us to be there for the growing number of people with cancer.”
To find out how to help, visit macmillan.org.uk/getinvolved