THE new £18m radiotherapy centre at Great Western Hospital moved a step closer to completion with a topping out ceremony to celebrate the roof being installed. 

Senior figures from GWH, Oxford University Hospitals, Brighter Futures, and construction company John Sisk & Son Ltd met on site to mark the structural completion of the building. 

The Adver went along to the event to walk around the site and the bunker where the unit will be installed. 

Once open, it will save cancer patients lengthy trips to the nearest available facility in Oxford to have treatment.

GWH chief executive Kevin McNamara was among those who laid the final bricks. 

He said: “It’s brilliant seeing the progress that’s been made in such a short space of time despite the backdrop of the pandemic. 

“They did an amazing job at just keeping this project going.

“This isn’t just a development in a building programme, it’s a really big step forward in bringing radiotherapy to Swindon and giving patients the great care, they deserve much closer to home.

“This is the right size, taking into account what population growth looks like.”
He said not having all patients going into a single site will be “better for patients and for healthcare providers like us to manage services”.

Chief finance officer at OUH Jason Dorsett, said: “The topping out ceremony gave us all the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the fantastic progress of the OUH Swindon Radiotherapy Centre.

“Laying the final bricks and seeing the roof in place marks another significant milestone in the development of this hugely important project that will benefit so many of our patients with cancer. I can’t wait to visit again and see the completed project.”

It is estimated the new centre will save more than 13,000 journeys to Oxford every year, alongside the anxiety, stress, and time of patients. 

The Swindon radiotherapy centre is an expansion of OUH’s radiotherapy service, currently provided solely from the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.

Dr Claire Hobbs , former head of radiotherapy at OUH and representing the service, said:

“I was here for the ground-breaking in October 2020, and it has been wonderful to see the centre take shape.

“More patients will agree to have treatment because for some people travelling 60 miles each way has meant that they’ve in the past perhaps thought ‘no, I’m not going to have that treatment’ whereas now we things they’ll be more patients agreeing to have treatments. 

“They’ll be able to travel for 10 minutes, have a treatment, and then go home and be with their families.”

She added: “The machines are the most high-tech machines that we’ve got in our fleet, and Oxford will have machines that are a bit older than this, so Swindon will be the top centre for a little while anyway.”

The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is overseeing the building and management of the new centre, said the Radiotherapy Centre is due to complete and welcome its first patients in early 2022.

OUH has invested £18.4 million in the project and the people of Swindon have donated an incredible £2.9 million towards the specialist equipment needed to provide radiotherapy in the town, through Brighter Futures’ Radiotherapy Appeal.

Fundraising and volunteering team manager at Brighter Futures Lisa Utting told the Adver: “I’m absolutely delighted to be here, and I just wished all of our supporters could be here with us to see this today as well. 

“All the hard work of three and a half years of fundraising and now the building is built, and we’re just delighted that we will stop our patients from having to travel to Oxford.

“I can’t express how much it does mean to us to finally see this. It’s phenomenal.”
People who had cancer told the Adver the challenges they faced while having to travel to Oxford for treatment. 

Fred Bassett, 83, from Old Walcot, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in Swindon in 2006. 

He said: “The treatment affected how I control my bladder and my bowels. It got very embarrassing, going back and forth from Oxford. There were no toilets. We did use a little café on the side of the road quite a lot . 

“And to see this come to fruition now is absolutely wonderful. It’s long needed, and it will make such a difference.” 

Project lead at John Sisk & Son James Ketteringham said the builders faced a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they managed to put in place action plans. 

He said: “Working practices have been a challenge, but now we’ve managed to overcome those very safely. I’m chuffed with what my team achieved.”