Boost for cancer treatment services at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

The new Radiotherapy Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, due to be completed in the new year. Megan Aldus, advanced radiographer, and Chris Beck, lead radiographer, in the new reception area. Picture: Denise Bradley The new Radiotherapy Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, due to be completed in the new year. Megan Aldus, advanced radiographer, and Chris Beck, lead radiographer, in the new reception area. Picture: Denise Bradley

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
6:29 AM

Cancer patients are set to benefit from quicker radiotherapy treatments when a £4.5m extension at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital opens next year.

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The new Radiotherapy Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, due to be completed in the new year. Clinical scientist, Will Holmes-Smith, who is setting up up the £1.5 million linear accelerator machine, with Jenny Tomes, head of Radiotherapy. Picture: Denise BradleyThe new Radiotherapy Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, due to be completed in the new year. Clinical scientist, Will Holmes-Smith, who is setting up up the £1.5 million linear accelerator machine, with Jenny Tomes, head of Radiotherapy. Picture: Denise Bradley

Precise checks and tests have begun on a new machine that is set to increase radiotherapy capacity at Norfolk’s busiest hospital by a quarter.

Officials at the Colney hospital hailed the investment in the new £1.5m linear accelerator, which will help the NHS trust to meet demand and increase capacity to deliver an extra 10,000 treatments a year.

The new machine, which treats cancers with high-dose radiation, is housed in a new unit at the N&N that is set to open its doors to patients by the end of March.

The extension has also led to the creation of a new three-bay Acute Oncology Service where patients can be treated if they experience complications during radiotherapy.

The new Radiotherapy Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, due to be completed in the new year. Megan Aldus, advanced radiographer, and Chris Beck, lead radiographer, at the console of the new linear accelerator. Picture: Denise BradleyThe new Radiotherapy Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, due to be completed in the new year. Megan Aldus, advanced radiographer, and Chris Beck, lead radiographer, at the console of the new linear accelerator. Picture: Denise Bradley

Jenny Tomes, head of radiotherapy at the N&N, said the project increased the number of linear accelerators from four to five and the new building had capacity to house another in the future. On a day-to-day basis, three machines are in constant use from 7.30am to 8pm every weekday and on Saturdays to meet demand. Mrs Tomes said a four-month long programme of tests and commissioning on the new 7.5 tonne machine should be complete in March.

“It is a completely different machine all together with all the latest bells and whistles that can deliver radiotherapy at a faster rate and can operate at four times the speed, which can lead to less treatments and fewer visits to hospital,” she said.

The N&N, which treats 2,500 cancer patients a year and performs 34,000 individual treatments a year, will increase its radiotherapy capacity by 25% when the new machine is up and running.

Mrs Tomes said there had been a 80pc increase in demand for cancer treatments at the N&N since 2007. She added that radiotherapy services were supposed to be operating at 87%, but were at 100%.

“We are running at capacity from 7.30am to 8pm because we are so busy and the forecast for demand is growing every year – it is not a great way for the staff to work. The population is increasing and there is a greater proportion of older people, cancer detection rates are going up, and prostate cancer treatment guidelines changed a few years ago from 20 treatments to 37,” she added.

Mrs Tomes added that the new linear accelerator would be particularly beneficial for some lung cancers by cutting the number of treatments from 20 to five. Work began on the high density walled facility last November and was completed by September, ahead of target, by R G Carter.

Mrs Tomes added that officials wanted to create a more welcoming environment in the new unit next to the Colney Centre.

“The aim was to make the building less hospital-like and make it feel more like a hotel. We did not want it to feel like a hospital environment and it is nice and bright and feels less like a clinical environment. Patients might have to come here for 37 treatments and if we can create a relaxing environment, it will be less daunting,” she said.

Have you got a health story for us? Email health correspondent Adam Gretton at adam.gretton@archant.co.uk or call 01603 772419.

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