Cancer patients urged to fight for radiotherapy unit

Posted on Aug 03, 2011

CANCER patients in Swindon are being urged to form their own action group in a bid to bring radiotherapy to the town.

The words of advice come from Clive Blanchard, the chairman of the Broomfield Radiotherapy Action Group (BRAG) in mid-Essex, who pressed for a new unit in Chelmsford, to prevent patients making a 50-mile round trip to Colchester to receive treatment.

Unfortunately, their battle with the Mid-Essex PCT Board fell on deaf ears when it agreed with the Essex Cancer Network (ECN) and opted to expand existing radiotherapy centres in Colchester and Southend ahead of putting a new unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford.

Clive contacted the Adver after hearing about our own special investigation into Swindon’s Cancer Scandal and said despite their own attempts failing in Chelmsford, he would encourage patients in Swindon to form their own action group.

Clive, whose wife Helen has battled breast cancer twice and last year was diagnosed with treatable but not curable secondaries on the lung and liver, said: “We were lucky in that we were able to get people together who were so determined to see this happen.

“It has been a massive part of our lives for six months and we are obviously bitterly disappointed that we haven’t got the results we wanted.

“We aren’t doing it for ourselves, we do it for our own kids and the next generation – I would like to think if any of my children or the rest of my family needed radiotherapy they would be able to access it without having the tiring journey that my wife and I have had.

“Surely in this world, we have moved on enough to provide better for these people than we are currently doing.

“If the people of Swindon can get together and get organised they could do what we did but hopefully with a different outcome.”

The group put forward a case for radiotherapy in Chelmsford with the backing of Health Minister and Chelmsford MP Simon Burns, who later criticised the decision of the Mid-Essex PCT.

He said he disagreed with Essex Cancer Network’s recommendations on radiotherapy services, but says things could change when the PCTs are scrapped.

“Their view is one which is I do not share and I had hoped that Mid Essex PCT would find the evidence compelling to reverse the recommendations of the Cancer Network” he said.

Clive, 57, said: “The people of Swindon are in the same position as we were – we got together, set up an online petition and got hundreds of people to sign it and we went from there.

“We had no funding, we did it all off our own backs, and we are very proud of what we have achieved, unfortunately we just didn’t achieve the end result.

“I hope the local PCT see and recognise the need for radiotherapy in Swindon – if there’s a need for patients to put a case together, maybe just one aspect of our report will help.”

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