Ipswich Hospital’s new £4.7m Woolverstone Macmillan cancer centre welcomes first patients

L-R Pauline Meadows, Emma Hardwick, Nisa Heys, Neill Moloney, Gill Heard, Helen Glenholmes.

L-R Pauline Meadows, Emma Hardwick, Nisa Heys, Neill Moloney, Gill Heard, Helen Glenholmes.

It started out as a bid to refurbish the overstretched cancer ward at Ipswich Hospital in order to give patients the privacy and dignity they deserve.

Patient Nisa Heys.

Patient Nisa Heys.

From that developed an idea that staff never dreamt could be possible – a brand new £4.7million state-of-the art centre that brings all outpatient cancer services together under one roof.

The Woolverstone Macmillan Centre, which has more than doubled the hospital’s cancer patient capacity, opened its doors for the first time today.

It features a spacious waiting area, several consulting rooms, 30 treatment chairs beside another chair for a loved one, all set in a bright, non-clinical space with artwork and three new gardens inspired by the landscapes of Suffolk.

The vision for the original revamp was born seven years ago by Ipswich Hospital’s operational co-ordinator for cancer, Cheryl Thayer, who together with other staff, volunteers and patients launched the Woolverstone Wish group.

Alan Bateman in the MacMillan Woolverstone Cancer Centre at Ipswich Hospital

Alan Bateman in the MacMillan Woolverstone Cancer Centre at Ipswich Hospital

Within five years, they had raised £800,000 to do up the existing unit, at which point national charity Macmillan Cancer Support identified an opportunity to build a multi-million-pound treatment centre.

Woolverstone Wish and Ipswich Hospital together contributed £1m and in November 2014 an appeal to raise a further £3.7m was launched.

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Mrs Thayer said: “I have worked in the department for nearly 16 years and about seven years ago we were literally treating people in alcoves and corridors.

“I went in to see the then-sister and I said to her that this couldn’t go on, we needed to do something about it.

L-R Dr Christopher Scrase, Helen Glenholmes, Cheryl Thayer, Nisa Heys, Alan Bateman.

L-R Dr Christopher Scrase, Helen Glenholmes, Cheryl Thayer, Nisa Heys, Alan Bateman.

“It was at the time when there was no money, the Ipswich Hospital was in debt it was well publicised so we knew if we were gong to do anything it was something that we needed to do together.

“We never, ever thought being such a small charity that the people of Suffolk would take this to heart, and before we knew it we were up at almost £800,000 and at that point Macmillan showed an interest and wanted to get involved. So it went from being just a revamp to a £4.7million build.

“It’s very emotional, and although we did tours for four days last week I think today is very poignant just seeing how the unit is buzzing and seeing the patients sitting there having their treatment in this amazing building.

“The Woolverstone Wish was initially founded on privacy and dignity for all cancer patients, because you must appreciate when there’s capacity issues privacy and dignity issues follow on closely behind.

“We’ve addressed all this in this unit, there are places where patients can go to have private conversations and there are private examination rooms.

“Just the whole ambiance of this build feels like a big comforting arm that’s come around this building and I hope the patients will feel that too.”

Support is still needed from the public to help the Woolverstone Macmillan Centre appeal reach its £4.7m target.

To donate, call Macmillan on 0300 1000 200 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/ipswich

Patient standing as an advocate for the Woolverstone Wish appeal

Cutting the ribbon was a patient who has received care from Ipswich Hospital’s haematology team for half her life.

Nisa Heys, 38, has a hereditary blood condition that requires her to have a blood transfusion every three weeks.

The mother-of-two has been attending the hospital since she was 19 and she has been involved with the Woolverstone Wish appeal from the outset.

Mrs Heys said her passion for the campaign was strengthened when she lost two of her very close friends who she had sat next to for years while receiving treatment in the ward.

“They got me through so many years of treatment and I’ve lost them in the past few years. We used to talk about and dream about this happening and the fact that they’re not here today to see it makes me so sad,” she said.

“We used talk about how amazing it would be but I don’t think any of us believed it would actually ever happen.”

Being raised in Ipswich and attending university in London, Mrs Heys said the care she received from the nursing staff at Ipswich Hospital was “above and beyond” anything she had ever experienced.

“The care is really personal, they make sure that I am happy and if I’m upset with some news about my treatment, or my blood levels aren’t so good, they are always, always there to support me through that,” she added.

“I am passionate [about the fundraising appeal] because I am reliant on the unit, without this unit I wouldn’t be here, and I need to spend a lot of my life here so it’s good to make sure it is a nice place to be.

“Psychologically it’s going to make a massive difference when patients are coming in for a full day of chemotherapy or haematology treatment.

“I feel really lucky that I only have to come once every three weeks but a lot of people have to come every day and have chemotherapy every day, so the fact they can come somewhere that is so light, bright and spacious and airy is amazing.

“The lighting is designed to make us feel better and not get headaches, every single little touch has been designed to help how we feel and I think it’s really going to help.”

Member of hospital’s trust board experienced facilities first hand

Alan Bateman was treated at Ipswich Hospital’s Woolverstone Wing nine years ago for throat cancer.

At this time the unit was made up of only 12 bays, with patients cramped side-by-side and little room for visitors.

Once recovered Mr Bateman became involved with Macmillan and also gained a position on Ipswich Hospital’s trust board as a non-executive director.

Mr Bateman said the new centre would “massively” improve the experience of getting chemotherapy for patients.

“Chemotherapy for me was a day, I would come in for a whole day and bring my backpack with my sandwiches, my flask and my books, and you literally had a little space,” he added.

“There was nothing wrong with the treatment, but the nurses were struggling because they had no room to move.

“I’m pretty self-contained, I had my book and I was okay, but there were patients who really needed their carer with them, and there just really wasn’t the space.

“Cancer is a very stressful illness to be cured from, it’s important to distress the patients as much as possible, and having an environment like this with some natural light with having your carer able to come in and out, and nurses having room to move around, will make the experience so much better.”