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Multi-million pound investment in county's cancer services

Radiotherapy treatment is being brought much closer to home for cancer patients in the west of Dorset thanks to a multi-million pound joint initiative between Dorset County Hospital and Poole Hospital.

DCH patients needing specialist radiotherapy have always had to travel to the facility at Poole but now a state-of-the-art satellite radiotherapy treatment centre is going to be built in Dorchester.

The new satellite radiotherapy treatment centre will be staffed and managed by the highly respected Dorset Cancer Centre. 

As well as ending the need for West Dorset patients to travel to Poole, the new treatment centre will also free up capacity at Poole Hospital to treat more cancer patients from the rest of the county.

The new centre will be electronically linked to the Dorset Cancer Centre at Poole Hospital, which will continue to assess patient needs, plan their care and treatment.  But rather than have to travel to Poole, West Dorset patients will be able to receive their radiotherapy treatment in Dorchester.

Evidence shows that the more patients need to travel, the less likely they are to undergo radiotherapy, which is second only to surgery as a way of effectively treating cancer. 

At present Poole has four specialist radiotherapy machines – called linear accelerators (linacs) - which have the highest patient usage in England.  Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has already agreed to replace one of its machines and had planned to expand capacity to host the new linac.

But following investigations and discussions with Dorset County Hospital it has been agreed that the best solution for patients would be to build radiotherapy facilities with two specialist linacs in Dorchester, one of which would be the Poole replacement.

Clinical Director for Oncology/Cancer Services Dr Tamas Hickish said:  “Specialist radiotherapy treatment should be given to around half of those patients with cancer and its use is expanding.  By locating the replacement alongside a new Linac in Dorchester, we are expanding capacity and implementing a solution which will bring huge benefits to cancer patients in Dorset, especially those in the west of the region.”

“This plan also provides capacity in Poole to replace its older linacs with new machines, without having to lose radiotherapy capacity.”

Chief Executive of Dorset County Hospital, Patricia Miller said:  “We are delighted to be working with Poole Hospital and the Dorset Cancer Centre on this project which will benefit many patients.  This is an exciting expansion of our capability locally and I am sure everyone connected with the hospital will be thrilled that specialist radiotherapy treatment will be available in Dorchester.”

Chief Officer of Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Tim Goodson, said:  “This is a really important development and one which embraces the spirit of the clinical services review in terms of improving access to services, especially for those in the west of the county.  It is a good indication of what can be achieved when two hospitals work together for the benefit of patients.”

OJEC tender notices have already been published and it is anticipated that by the time the facilities are built and the specialist equipment commissioned, patients will be able to receive their radiotherapy treatment in Dorchester during late 2017.

Notes to editors

Location:  The new facilities will be located on the Dorset County Hospital site, adjacent to the restaurant.

Funding:  The £7m cost is being funded by a variety of sources, the major one being loan finance already agreed with Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. 

Clinical Services Review:

The establishment of a new radiotherapy treatment centre in Dorchester is not dependent on the outcome of the Dorset Clinical Services Review (CSR) or whether Poole Hospital becomes the major emergency or the planned care hospital. 

This initiative is in line with the principles of the CSR, which are based on greater cooperation across the health community and bringing services closer to the people who need them. 

Date: 12 August 2015

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