NW Evening Mail, Thursday, 17 September 2009
CANCER patients across South Cumbria could benefit from a planned extension to Furness General Hospital’s oncology unit.
A planning application submitted to Barrow Borough Council this month proposes to install two single story extensions at the back of the existing ward to form a consulting room and purpose-built therapy room.
The £160,000 extension will allow more free complementary therapy treatments, including massage and aromatherapy, to be offered to cancer patients.
Work is planned to start in October and finish in December.
There are also plans to increase the number of nurse and consultant-led clinics within the unit following the build.
This will increase the number of patients staff at the unit are able to see.
David Fyfe, consultant oncologist for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust, said: “Undergoing chemotherapy is a very stressful time for patients and their families.
“Patients that attend the complementary therapy sessions report that they are more relaxed and can cope with their treatment better, so the provision of more sessions in a safe, clean and soothing environment is great news for everyone involved.”
The unit opened in the hospital in May 2004. Barrow and Furness residents contributed £1m to the cost of the day hospital through the Furness Oncology Appeal.
Then in September that year, the Evening Mail launched a campaign to raise the final £25,000 needed to complete phase two of the build, which included a eight-bed in-patient facility.
The fundraising efforts of readers ensured the appeal hit the target within nine weeks of its launch.
Barrow Mayor Councillor Dorothy Dawes, who is involved with the work of Furness Breast Cancer Support Group, said: “I think it is very good news, especially because the people of Barrow raised the money for the unit.
“The unit treats all kinds of cancer. An extension could mean the unit treats more people, which means less people have to travel to get treatment.
“Chemotherapy can be very unpleasant for cancer patients and the plans might help to make that less of a strain, especially if they don’t have to make a journey to get chemo.
“I welcome the addition of a complementary therapy room because in my opinion it is very good and cancer patients can find it relaxing and comforting.”
A spokeswoman for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, said: “The only thing the trust offers at the moment is chemotherapy and this will remain the same.
“The improvements to the oncology unit do not mean we will be able to offer radiotherapy, so patients will have to continue to travel to Preston and other hospitals to receive other forms of treatment.”
Maureen Cole, whose son David lost his battle with cancer aged 24 in July 2003, and her family are regular fund-raisers for the hospital’s oncology unit.
The David Cole Training Fund was set up in his name in to fund the training of nurses in oncology and haematology.
She said: “The plans are absolutely wonderful news. It is fantastic to be adding to this great local resource. Even though the people who will have to use the unit are very unlucky, they are also lucky in a way because in the past other people have had to travel miles to receive treatment.
“There will still be those who have to travel to Preston and further to get radiotherapy, but for all those who can use the oncology unit at our hospital and not have to make that trip, it makes so much difference.”
Elaine Lewis, Furness Cancer Support Group coordinator, said: “Hopefully the plans will get approved. It would be great news for the town.
“There are people who come to our support group and always talk about the high standard of care at the oncology unit.
“Our group does aromatherapy and patients have commented on how effective it is.”
Ian Sim, planning officer for Barrow Borough Council, said: “At this very early stage I am unable to say whether it is likely to be approved or not.”
First published at 13:08, Thursday, 17 September 2009