CANCER patients are a huge step closer to receiving radiotherapy treatment on their doorstep after plans for a dedicated Swindon centre were approved by NHS chiefs.

A further hurdle has been overcome in the bid to see the radiotherapy unit developed at the Great Western Hospital.

The NHS Trust Development Authority Capital Investment Group backed the outline business case for the new centre, which would see the creation of the service in Swindon.

Members will now need to approve a full business case.

Cancer patients in and around Swindon currently have to travel to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital to use one of five machines available.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust’s (OUHT) board proposed earlier this year to pay £14.7million for a new unit to be built at GWH with the Swindon hospital asked to raise the remaining £2.5m necessary to make the service a reality.

Dr Guy Rooney, medical director at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust, said: “This great news brings us another step closer to bringing a local radiotherapy service to the people of Swindon and Wiltshire.

“Radiotherapy is a hugely complex treatment and extensive building work and planning still needs to take place, so there will be more steps to take and hurdles to jump, but good progress is being made.”

Paul Bearman, director of commissioning, said “NHS Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group is committed to delivering a local radiotherapy service which will mean our patients no longer have to travel 45 minutes to Oxford, multiple times a week, for many weeks, which can be stressful and costly.

“We are pleased that this proposal has received approval from the NHS Trust Development Authority and we will be supporting the development of the full business case for the local service over the coming months with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

“As part of the business case, we expect there to be a charitable fundraising appeal that will assist with purchasing the linear accelerators (radiotherapy treatment machines) and we anticipate this will soon become a well-supported local charity when fundraising commences.”

Patients in and around Swindon 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.

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

A CCG spokesman said: “Everyone recognises the positive impact for many patients requiring this vital aspect of cancer treatment by no longer having to make repeated trips to Oxford for radiotherapy and the impact of bringing this service closer to home for residents of Swindon and Shrivenham and the surrounding areas cannot be underestimated or overstated.

“The NHS Trust Development Authority Capital Investment Group of the 7th May 2014 has approved the Outline Business Case for the expansion of radiotherapy services at Swindon and the scheme now needs to proceed to the Full Business Case stage.”