GALLERY: Brighter future for Swindon as radiotherapy appeal celebrates hitting £2.9m target

By Claire Dukes - 25 January 2019


It was a buzzing carnival atmosphere at GWH this morning with even a hint of star power as the great and the good gathered to celebrate the successful Brighter Futures appeal.

More than 13,000 journeys to Oxford will be saved now that a radiotherapy unit is coming to Swindon.

Fundraisers for Brighter Futures were congratulated this morning at Swindon's Great Western Hospital, to celebrate their efforts in raising £2.9m for the charity's Radiotherapy Appeal.

Patients and visitors were joined by members of local Rotary Clubs, the Nepalese Association, Moose International and Ladies Circle, WHSmith, TE Connectivity, XPO, Malmesbury and Savernake League of Friends groups, and Dr Thomas Cranston Wilson Charitable Trust, alongside many other groups. 

Fundraising for the appeal began back in May 2015. It is expected that the radiotherapy unit will save more than 13,000 journeys to Oxford University Hospital, - currently the closest unit for treatment - which treats more than 4,000 patients a year.

Roger Hill, Chair of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our commitment was to finance the equipment of the facility to the tune of £2.9m, whilst Oxford would raise the funds for the building and operations of the centre.”

"There are some 700 hundred people every year suffering the stress and anxiety of the journey to Oxford for the radiotherapy treatment that they provide – many are unable, or unwilling, to make that journey hence denying themselves added care.

"We see about 300 diagnosed patients a month with cancer at our hospital. The launching of the appeal, amongst the 350,000 people living in Swindon and the surrounding towns and villages, was critical if we were going to deliver the services they deserve and improve the quality of their lives.

"The response to the appeal has been amazing – raising, on average, £70,000 every month for the last three and a half years.

"I have personally had my family devastated by cancer, and I don’t want it to ever happen again. Your achievements will leave a lasting legacy for hundreds, if not thousands, of cancer patients for both this and many future generations."

The new unit at Great Western Hospital is expected to undertake 16,000 treatments a year, and will provide two £2.5m treatment machines.

Dr Claire Hobbs, Head of Radiotherapy at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Brighter Futures have been raising money for the last three and half years to help equip the new radiotherapy unit, which will be built and run by Oxford University Hospital at the Foundation Trust here Great Western Hospital.

"This is a true partnership development and as a consultant who’s worked in both hospitals for the past 20 years, I can truly say that both hospital boards, and staff, have been fully behind this venture since we wrote that first outline business case back in 2012.

"We’re very grateful to all the people who have walked, climbed, partied, run and done all sorts of extraordinary things in order to provide additional funding for our Swindon radiotherapy unit. I was delighted myself to take part in the first sponsored bike ride for the appeal in 2015. I was astonished by the number of friends, relatives and work colleagues who supported me, and I was delighted to raise £6,000 towards the appeal.

"It’s long been our ambition to deliver radiotherapy in Swindon to reduce the huge number of journeys people have to take, and to provide our services nearer to patients’ homes. Having looked after cancer patients in Swindon and Oxford for 20 years I am acutely aware of the hardship these journeys bring, on top of the discomfort of cancer and the side effects of treatment. I am often in awe of how patients and their relatives have extraordinary determination to go through with the treatment despite the journey.

"Cancer is becoming more common, and now one in two of us will develop it in our lifetime. But looking positively, we’re now curing more cancer patients – over half the patients with cancer will now live beyond 10 years from their diagnosis, and radiotherapy is used in the treatment of 40% of the cancer patients who are cured. And of course, many more cancer patients have symptoms which are often improved with radiotherapy even if we can’t cure the cancer. This means that the requirement for radiotherapy has increased substantially since we opened the cancer centre in Oxford 10 years ago. So, in fact, we in Oxford need the Swindon unit as much as the local population here needs it so that we can cope with the rising demand."

"Radiotherapy is a treatment which has been transformed over the past 10 years with new technologies that allow us to target the tumour much more accurately with focused radiation, which minimises the dose to the healthy tissues around the tumour. So now, many of our patients are treated with this intensity modulated radiotherapy which is delivered in arcs around the patient.

"I am delighted that this technology will be delivered to all patients treated here in Swindon, and the Brighter Futures’ fundraising will fund one of these new high-spec machines."

It has taken three years of fundraising to hit the £2.9m target, and Brighter Futures' patron, comedian and impressionist, Rory Bremner has accepted cheques of up to £50,000 on behalf of the charity during that time.

Addressing attendees of the event this morning, he said: "This is a day I didn’t really think we’d see, certainly not this soon – there was a time 18 months ago where it was slow going, and I thought ‘we’re not going to get there by Christmas’. And we’re there, which is amazing.

"I thought some white knight big companies would come in, but this has been about people – this has been about individual donations from friends who have relatives with cancer. It affects us all - I lost my father, and I lost my best friend four years ago.

"Now, radiotherapy’s coming home – it’s coming back to Swindon. That is going to make sure a huge difference – this has been a massive community effort. This is a wonderful day for Swindon."

Building for the radiotherapy unit will commence later this year. It will take between 15 and 18 months to build the unit, install and commission the machines. The centre is expected to be open to patients in 2021.

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