Campaign for radiotherapy centre

Posted on Jul 25, 2011

EVERY year almost 400 cancer patients are making the exhausting 70-mile round trip from Swindon to Oxford for life-saving radiotherapy treatment. That is because there is no radiotherapy unit in Swindon. Families have called it an outrage, and this week the Adver will be highlighting their plight and the need for a radiotherapy centre in the town.

Back in March, NHS Swindon revealed that it would be seeking money to finally bring a unit to Swindon and a progress report is set to be brought back to the council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee in September.

It costs approximately £1.4m each year to send patients to Churchill Hospital in Oxford, the closest centre to Swindon, to receive the life-saving treatment – something that the families of those who require treatment say is far from good enough.

Some patients have even considered refusing the treatment due to the distance they would have to travel to receive it.

An NHS spokesman said it is currently costing the PCT in the region of £45,000 annually to cover the costs of transportation for patients, but could not say how much it would cost to build a radiotherapy unit in the town. Due to the levels of radiation, it would have to be in a separate building to the hospital.

He said: “NHS Swindon would develop the strategic plan to provide radiotherapy for patients then seek a response from the providers of service. The providers would then have to develop a business case to decide whether they would wish to provide the service.

“The next stage would be to develop a full business case, which would outline the costs and benefits of a local radiotherapy service in Swindon.

“The responsibility for funding the development of a unit, once a decision was made to proceed, would fall to the provider of the service rather than the PCT.

“The PCT has the responsibility to fund the care of the patient.”

Jan Stubbings, Chief Executive for NHS Swindon, said: “It is extremely important to us that the journey for treatment for any patient is provided with as little added stress and hassle as possible during such difficult times.

“We have always supported bringing radiotherapy treatment to Swindon and constantly review all our services to ensure the highest quality of care for our residents.

“Following extensive engagement with patients, health partners and community and voluntary groups, we now have a comprehensive understanding about the need for radiotherapy locally.

“The next step is to press ahead within the next few weeks, with a tender process asking for potential providers to express an interest in delivering the service.

“They will need to explain how they would meet a nationally-set, comprehensive list of conditions for things such as support to patients during their treatment, a high quality, reliable and safe service, building requirements and what types of cancers would be treated.

“Those that meet this essential criteria will be asked to put together a business case and once these have been studied, a final decision on whether a service in Swindon will go ahead and who will provide the service will be made.

“Unfortunately, even if a radiotherapy unit was provided in Swindon it may not treat every cancer patient’s needs and some may still need to travel for the best treatment."

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