Great Western Hospital’s ‘game-changing’ £20 million radiotherapy centre has officially opened with brand new state-of-the-art equipment seven years after fundraising first began.

The new centre, which is an expansion of Oxford University Hospital’s radiotherapy service, is expected to save Swindon cancer patients over 13,000 journeys to Oxford each year.

GWH’s chief executive Kevin McNamara described the opening as a “huge milestone in the history of healthcare in Swindon”' and praised the community’s “incredible spirit” for helping to bring the vision to life. 

Until now, Swindon’s cancer patients had to trek to Oxford for radiotherapy treatment which is roughly a 70-mile round trip. 

GWH’s Brighter Futures charity has helped raised more than £3m for the project to supplement the £15.9m loan from the government secured by OUH. 

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Adver readers helped Brighter Futures reach its £2.9m target in 2018 by donating thousands of pounds after the Swindon Advertiser promoted the appeal.

The charity’s team members shed tears of joy as associate director Cat Weaver said: “Back in May 2015 when this started, we never dared to dream of this moment when the keys were handed over to us and the doors opened. 

“Thousands of local people came together to fight cancer. Most recently, we received the CT scanner as well which was the icing on the cake for us.

“It’s incredible the difference this will make. It will mean that parents can keep their jobs during treatment and take their kids to school.”

The impressive radiotherapy centre boasts two linear accelerators which are mostly used for external beam radiotherapy.

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The site’s CT scanner will mean patients can have their planning scans in Swindon too.

Dr Claire Hobbs, former head of radiotherapy at OUH, was one of the main driving forces behind the project. She said: “The CT scanner is really great because all the parts of the treatment can be done here and patients won’t need to travel to Oxford.”

A CT scanner is used to capture detailed images of the patients’ tumours and their surroundings so that doctors can plan the treatment accurately.

She added: “I know exactly what trauma patients experience when I tell them they’re going to have to go to Oxford for treatment.

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"It takes so many people to do the whole journey when they're already anxious about treatment. They look at each other and say, ‘How am I going to get there?’”

Jason Dorsett, chief finance officer at OUH, highlighted how studies show that patients are more likely to complete treatment if it is available on their doorsteps

Breast cancer patient Sandra McGlone, who cut the ribbon with cancer survivor Fred Bassett, described the new centre as “the fruition of a dream”. She hopes she will be able to receive her radiotherapy treatment at the Swindon site this summer. 

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“It’s massive and it’s an emotional day. I travelled to Oxford for radiotherapy every day for four weeks when I last had breast cancer. There’s the financial implications of driving but also you’re at the lowest you can be, physically and emotionally.

“It’s draining and it’s hard so this centre will make such a difference.”

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