CAMPAIGNERS, charities and the general public will need to rally behind the Great Western Hospital to secure £3m over the next four years if plans for a new Swindon radiotherapy unit are to become a reality.

Last week, the board of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust backed plans for a new service to be based at GWH to cope with increasing demand in the region and allow Swindon cancer patients to receive treatment much closer to home.

Members are expected to formally approve detailed plans later this month.

The OUHT will invest a maximum of £14.7m in the development of a satellite service.

But the department will remain a far-away dream unless a minimum of £2.6m is raised by GWH with the help of health groups and generous benefactors.

Several fundraising options have been put forward by OUHT such as having a third-party group lead the appeal on behalf of GWH, such as the hospital’s own charity Brighter Futures.

Although consequential, the sum to be secured was deemed realistic and achievable overall by Valentine Morby Associates in a report that was submitted to Oxford health chiefs.

The firm suggested that if it optimised all its resources, GWH’s charity alone would be able to raise £2m per year.

“It is estimated that it would take GWH four years to raise the full £3m,” the report said.

“A more realistic target for GWH would be £2.6m net income raised within three years.

“The Association of NHS Charities’ latest figures show that a reasonably well-run NHS hospital charity can expect to raise around 0.7 per cent of the overall parent hospital budget.

“This would mean that, with a trust budget of £284m in 2012/2013, GWH’s charity could be raising around £2m annually.”

But the appeal may run the risk of entering in direct competition with other organisations relying on donations to survive, such as Prospect Hospice and Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

It cost more than £5.8m to run the hospice last year, while the air ambulance charity has to raise £2.5m to continue flying each year.

Cancer patients in and around Swindon currently have to travel up to 90 minutes each way to Oxford to use one of five machines available. This is significantly more than the 45 minutes recommended by the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group.

The intensive treatment can involve up to 37 trips to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

Beryl Bowles, founder of Affect By Cancer, a self-help support group for patients, their carers, relatives and friends, said she, along with campaigners, had been fighting behind the scenes for such a service to open in the town for years.

“It’s excellent news and long awaited,” she said.

“We have been fighting for this for many years. In the last 12 months it seems to have sped up.

“The treatment only lasts 10 minutes but it takes patients all day when they have to get picked up with other patients and then wait to get home. It will be so much better for them.

“It’s definitely positive. And it looks as if it’s going to happen a lot quicker than we thought.”

On average each year, patients from Swindon and Wiltshire make 13,000 trips to Churchill Hospital’s radiotherapy department – meaning combined they spend nearly 20,000 hours, or more than two years, on the road.