Ipswich Hospital’s new £2.5m drug making centre to give hope to cancer patients

Pharmacy technicians at work in the new unit, in the cleanrooms and via video link.

Pharmacy technicians at work in the new unit, in the cleanrooms and via video link. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Hospital has unveiled a £2.5million centre to make chemotherapy drugs for patients with cancer.

Ipswich Hospitals chief executive Nick Hulme, chief pharmacist Kevin Purser,
oncology pharmacist I

Ipswich Hospitals chief executive Nick Hulme, chief pharmacist Kevin Purser, oncology pharmacist Ian Floodgate, divisional clinical director Debo Ademokun, Gill Heard and business planning manager Ivan Catling with pharmacy colleagues at the official opening of the hospitals new unit for preparing cancer drugs. - Credit: Archant

The centre, known as an aseptic production unit (APU), is in the Woolverstone Cancer Wing at the hospital, and next year a £4.7million day unit for cancer patients will be opening alongside it – boosting the hospital’s provision and care for cancer patients.

The APU is home to three pharmaceutical isolators – specialist pieces of equipment which provide very clean environments to protect both the drug from being spoilt, and the member of staff from the drug’s toxic effects – will now to be able to match the demand of an expected increase in patients.

Currently 17 day unit patients are treated there, but this is expected to increase to 30 next year.

The centre is the brainchild of the Woolverstone Wish Appeal, which is raising funds to refurbish the chemotherapy outpatient clinics and day unit on the Woolverstone Wing, reaching an impressive £1million.

Pharmacy technicians at work in the new unit, in the cleanrooms and via video link.

Pharmacy technicians at work in the new unit, in the cleanrooms and via video link. - Credit: Archant

Cancer support charity Macmillan then came on board at the end of November and the plan to create a state-of-the art centre was born.

Since that partnership was formed, a further £363,000 has been raised, taking the total to nearer £1.4million.

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The isolators in the APU are kept in ‘cleanrooms’, which are kept free of dust and bacteria.

The air to these rooms is supplied by a specialist piece of ventilation equipment within the plant room in the roof. Air is kept at a higher pressure in the cleanrooms than the outer rooms and is highly filtered so it travels away from the cleanest area.

Before the unit opened, the team had a much smaller, cramped and outdated unit with only one isolator.

Oncology pharmacist Ian Floodgate said: “With all these changes, the aim is to provide the treatment required to our patients, at the time that they need it, with a high level of quality assurance to minimise the risks involved to patients and staff when preparing these injections.

“It is hoped that the new facility will provide the capacity to do this for many years to come.”

Kevin Purser, chief pharmacist at Ipswich Hospital, is delighted with the facilities. He said: “We’re really pleased with it. Now we have got a state-of-the-art facility to prepare for chemotherapy.

“Prior to that we had a very small facility with a small isolator cabinet. Now we’ve got three isolator cabinets and the capacity to do more.”

Before the opening of the new APU, chemotherapy drugs were purchased from other suppliers, but now have the ability to be completely self-sufficient.

However, Mr Purser said drugs may still be purchased from elsewhere if it is cost-effective.

He added: “This is the best development we have had in the hospital for some time. It is a key component to treating cancer patients in Ipswich and east Suffolk.”

To make a donation to the cancer centre, call 0300 1000 200 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/ipswich