Fundraisers, oncologists, nurses and managers celebrated the opening of Chorley and South Ribble District Hospital’s new facility as they cut the ribbon yesterday, symbolising its launch.
“We do declare this chemotherapy unit open,” chimed key fundraising group The Witches of Adlington in unison, as they cut the ribbon.
Marina McHugh, 80, Kath Hodson, 71 and Carol Bagshaw, 57 have spent the last three years hosting fundraising events to gather the £31,000 they donated to the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, which topped up the figure to £54,000 to put towards the ward.
“It’s part of a dream come true,” says consultant clinical oncologist Graham Reed speaking after the ribbon was cut.
“It’s been 20 years in the making, there’s always been chemotherapy in Preston and the original plan was always to do it here.”
Catherine Silcock, divisional nursing director at Chorley hospital, says that Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is keen to treat patients with cancer in a way which allows them to get on with their day to day routine.
She says: “A lot of patients now are living with cancer and so the treatment is part of their lives.
“It’s really important that people can maintain their quality of life and their standard of living and that the treatments fit in around their ability to work, ability to look after their children, ability to be closer to their family and friends.
“We’ve had to change the way that we deliver the services over the 20 years since the Rosemere opened.”
Clinical business manager at Chorley hospital Kath Howarth says that the population increases in Chorley mean that there is greater need for chemotherapy treatment.
“We know that the requirements of chemotherapy treatments are growing every year and we’ve got new immunotherapy treatments coming online as well as the population increase in the area.
“We knew that it would be a requirement to provide more chemo so rather than just expanding the unit at Preston what we wanted to do was move the chemotherapy treatments closer to the patients.
“We looked at the model that we’ve got at Preston and looked at what we’ve got that works well, and what we could do better and things that are really important for the patients so space and privacy.
“If they are feeling unwell, for example, they might need the privacy to talk about symptoms they’ve got.”
For cancer patients in Chorley the new unit will mean that they will be able to have their chemotherapy closer to home. The new unit also means waiting times will drop.
The ward at Chorley has 15 treatment chairs which allows nurses to see multiple patients in a day.
Consultant oncologist Dr Gerry Skailes says: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to have this enhanced service that’s local and is in a really fabulous environment.
“The most important thing is that we’re delivering treatment to patients closer to home and ensuring a high quality of care.”
The nurse-led service, which kicked into action this week, will provide treatment to patients without the need for an overnight hospital stay.
It is operating two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8am to 4pm, initially before building up to four days a week over the next few months to include Wednesdays and Fridays.
Unit manager Rebecca Biltcliffe says: “We’ll be phasing in the different treatments every week. We have been working on this for a year.
“We have acquired and trained the staff so that we can do the rapid build up safely. It will be a mirror image of the Preston unit.”
Four sisters, 20 staff nurses and two assistant practitioners will staff the unit at both Preston and Chorley.
They are joined by 25 oncologists, who work across Lancashire and South Cumbria.
Although the bulk of cancer patients from the borough will be treated at Chorley, some with more complicated situations will still need to head to Preston.
“There will still be some who have to have their treatment in Preston,” says Dr Skailes. “It depends on the complexity of the treatment and what disease type because some treatments require closer monitoring and supervision and greater access to medical staff.”
Speaking at the launch ceremony Carol, one of the Witches of Adlington, says: “We’re so pleased about the new facility, it’s the best thing for Chorley and the surrounding areas. It’s a legacy to Marj.”
Marjorie Taylor, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma in 2001, is the reason why the Witches of Adlington fundraising group was established.
Having been treated at the Preston-based Rosemere Cancer Foundation, Marjorie wanted to give something back to the foundation as a way of thanks. Since then the group has raised £170,000 for Rosemere.
However sadly, in 2015 Marjorie died after a 14-year battle with cancer.
The Witches fundraisers have included fashion shows, table top sales, coffee mornings and even a garden party complete with a gardener who arrived naked but for his wellington boots.
As the Witches like to say, they ‘put the fun into fundraising’.