Newspaper launches campaign to help cancer patients

Posted on Jan 03, 2012

A weekly newspaper is spearheading a campaign to demand a radiotherapy centre in Cumbria. The Westmorland Gazette’s Shorter Journeys Longer Lives campaign aims to see a specialist unit opened at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal to save cancer patients having to travel around 50 miles to Preston in Lancashire for treatment.

The newspaper has now collected more than 7,000 campaign signatures on a petition which has been handed to health bosses.

Group editor Kevin Young said: “The current provision in South Lakeland for cancer sufferers is simply inadequate. Lives are being lost because people in this area have to travel around 50 miles to receive basic radiotherapy treatment.”

Andrew Thomas, the Gazette’s senior content editor, has handed the 7,000 name petition to health commissioner Ros Berry, who sits on the key decision-making board.

Said Andrew: “This has been one of the biggest and best responses to a Westmorland Gazette campaign.

“We hope health chiefs take this strength of feeling an board and decide to bring the unit to Kendal.”

The appeal was launched after a leading South Lakeland doctor claimed terminally-ill cancer patients were shortening their lives because they were not prepared to make the gruelling journey for radiotherapy.

Many of the names on the petition were collected by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron and the pressure is now on the Cumbria and Lancashire Collaborative Commission to meet public demand and organise a specialist unit to be built in South Lakeland.

Mr Berry told the Gazette that the commission accepted there was a real need for radiotherapy in Kendal, but it has to be sustainable.

He said: “We have to convince other members of the board, who might want a radiotherapy centre elsewhere, that Kendal is the best place.”

Two hospital trusts submitted a business plan for a Kendal radiotherapy unit earlier this year, but it has been handed back for further development. They are expected to submit a redrafted plan in early 2012.

The newspaper will also support a rally organised by Tim Farron in March in Kendal town centre to maintain the campaign’s momentum.

Cumbria GP commissioner Hugh Reeve said the campaign response would have a big influence on decision makers.

Last year, 426 people from South Cumbria travelled to Preston for radiotherapy – 184 people from the Barrow area and 242 people from South Lakeland and Ulverston.

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