Cancer boost thanks to bumper donation

IPSWICH: There were celebrations at Ipswich Hospital today after a whopping charity donation funded a state-of-the-art system to help cancer patients.

IPSWICH: There were celebrations at Ipswich Hospital today after a whopping charity donation funded a state-of-the-art system to help cancer patients.

Somersham Ward Cancer Unit Support Group handed over a cheque for a massive �180,000 to the radiotherapy department at the hospital, which will pay for new software, allowing patients to be treated quicker.

The cash has been pouring into the charity over the last couple of years, through fundraising events like coffee mornings, legacies, and both large and small donations.

Currently those with certain cancers, like head and neck or prostate, can be treated with a type of radiotherapy called Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). It means patients have to lie in the same position for around 20 minutes while they are subjected to radiation beams.

The upgraded system, called RapidArc, increases the number of beams and rotates, meaning patients only have to have the treatment for five minutes. The treatment is usually administered daily for six weeks.

Dr Christopher Scrase, clinical lead for the oncology department, said: “This will be a significant improvement for patient experience. It also improves the capacity for treatment.

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“We are extremely grateful for the support group's generosity. It demonstrates their confidence in us as a department.”

Hayley James, operational head of radiotherapy physics, added: “The patient could be on the couch for 20 minutes while held in place. It is very uncomfortable and not very nice for the patient.

“We will be one of the first departments in the country to routinely offer RapidArc to patients.”

Had the funding not been given, the department would have not been able to get the new software until at least 2011. It is expected to be in use by the New Year. It is hoped it will eventually be used to treat 30 per cent of all cancer patients.

Since the Somersham Ward Cancer Unit Support Group formed in 1986, the organisation has been a major hospital backer, including renovating an old smoke room to turn it into a children's room, and regularly providing toiletries and refreshments for the patients.

Tony Baker, the group's treasurer, said: “The new system gives radiation more accurately and in bigger doses so it is quicker for patients. The other big effect is they will be able to get more patients treated.”

Eileen Sharman, chairwoman, added: “This is a great chunk of money so we are pleased it is going to something worthwhile.”

Have you raised a large amount of money for a good cause? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Thanks to a boost of more than half-a-million pounds from the hospital pot, the emergency department will be able to consistently see and treat most patients within the four-hour target.

A team from the emergency department put a business case together, which took about six months, and set out a plan to improve the way they worked. The case was presented to the board this month, which agreed to give the department funding of �700,000 from its pot to carry it out.

The money will go towards funding extra shifts for existing staff members, and recruiting new staff, including more nurses and reception staff, ensuring the best patient experience from when they walk through the doors to being discharged.

The funding will also mean they will be able to constantly hit the government target of seeing and treating 98 per cent of people within four hours. It is also working closely with the PCT to ensure patients receive care in the most appropriate place.

Katrina Wickens, emergency department matron, who helped put the business case together, said: “People have been working extra shifts to cover the shortfall. The investment is already making a difference to meeting the target. It is a huge step forward for the morale of the nurses and doctors.

“Without them and all their hard work, we wouldn't achieve anything.”

In the past, at its lowest point, the hospital was only able to treat 80pc of patients within the target time. However they are now regularly hitting the 98pc target.

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