FUNDRAISERS got the ball rolling for cancer patients yesterday when they donated £400 to the Great Western Hospital towards the creation of a much-needed radiotherapy unit.

Swindon Bowls Club embarked on a campaign to raise funds for the new centre following news in January that plans for the facilities had been backed by the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust board to help ease demand and allow Swindon residents to receive treatment on their doorstep.

OUHT will invest up to £14.7million for the unit but around £2.5m will be needed from fundraising across Swindon and Wiltshire to make the centre a reality. Although no formal fundraising appeal has yet been launched by GWH, behind the scenes an informal campaign is gathering pace among charities and local groups.

Owen Clarke, a lifelong member of Swindon Bowls Club and prostate cancer survivor, pledged his support to the unit immediately after finding out about the plans.

“We need a radiotherapy unit in Swindon,” said the 84-year-old from Faringdon, who was diagnosed with the condition in 1998. Although he did not undergo radiotherapy himself, several of the club’s members have had to make the journey to Oxford for care over the years.

He said: “£2.5m is feasible; it has to be because it’s really needed.”

Jennifer Green, head of fundraising at GWH, said the hospital would officially launch a fundraising appeal next January.

“People’s support has been positive and we are finding it very difficult to hold off that support and trying to delay it until we launch the appeal,” she said.

“We are just asking people to be patient while we work as a Trust in partnership with Oxford in terms of plans and taking them through the appropriate stages.”