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Rosemere Cancer launch £1.5 million 20 years anniversary appeal

PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 March 2017

A flashback to the original Rosemere team

A flashback to the original Rosemere team

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Preston’s Rosemere Cancer Centre is 20 this year and staff and friends are celebrating with a big fundraising project. Julie Frankland reports.

A patient being treated at RosemereA patient being treated at Rosemere

BIG birthdays merit special gifts and that’s just what’s on the cards for Rosemere Cancer Centre, Lancashire and South Cumbria’s specialist regional cancer treatment centre, which has just turned 20.

A wish list compiled by the centre’s clinical teams has been narrowed down to three ground breaking projects. As the birthday celebrations begin, so does the start of a £1.5 million 20 Years Anniversary Appeal to fund them, turning hopes into reality and ensuring that Lancashire - and Preston in particular as the cancer centre is based at the Royal Preston Hospital – are at the very forefront of the global effort to conquer cancer.

For these projects – the acquisition of the latest in robotic surgical systems, a state-of-the-art research facility to enable the centre to increase the number of clinical trials it is able to undertake and the creation of a 21st century in-patient ward as far removed from the traditional Florence Nightingale hospital model as it is possible to imagine – are all designed to lead, encouraging others to follow.

As it comes of age, Rosemere Cancer Centre is set to emerge from the shadows of its older north west counterparts, Manchester’s The Christie Hospital and Merseyside’s Clatterbridge. In doing so, it will realise the vision of the man chosen as its founding clinical director, consultant oncologist Graham Reid. A proud Graham said: ‘I am delighted to say that the Rosemere Cancer Centre is everything I had hoped it would be and more.

‘It has surpassed all expectations to grow from a small satellite radiotherapy site to one of the largest specialist cancer centres in the country. But we can never be complacent and the 20th Anniversary Appeal projects will help keep the centre at the forefront of cancer treatment.’

So perhaps we should all embrace this significant birthday and raise a toast to the Rosemere for while none of us ever wants to have to go there, at least it’s good to know it’s on our doorstep should we need to.

Rosemere’s roots

Rosemere Cancer Centre opened its doors to treat its very first patients at the end of February 1997, initially as the Lancashire and Lakeland Radiotherapy Department. Its name change to Rosemere Cancer Centre followed three years later after its accreditation as a bona fide specialist centre, able to offer more specialist services and treatments than just radiotherapy.

The advanced robotic kit is a first for the northThe advanced robotic kit is a first for the north

It derived its name by taking the rose element from the red rose of Lancashire and combining it with the mere from the waters of the south Lakes.

The Rosemere owes its existence to a 1994 report, which showed those living closest to a specialist cancer unit fared the best. It was decided that something had to be done to help Lancashire’s eastern mill town cancer patients, those in its seaside towns and those over the border in South Cumbria, who at the time all faced the same long trek to The Christie - a five hour car trip in some cases.

Recalls Nelson businessman and Rosemere champion Kevin Thornber: ‘I have personal experience of having had to drive a very poorly person to Christie’s for chemotherapy and I can tell you, it’s not a good journey to have to make for anyone. In fact, any sort of longer journey like that is most certainly the last thing the patient needs.’

Last year, Rosemere delivered chemotherapy to 1,559, patients from across the Lancashire/south Cumbria region, radiotherapy treatments to 4,000 patients and performed 2,711 surgical procedures.

Yet for all of this, the Rosemere Cancer Centre is more than just bricks and mortar and high tech medical interventions as former patient Frank Stoner, chairman of the 20th Anniversary Appeal Committee and Rosemere ambassador, explains. ‘My personal experience of outstanding care at the Rosemere in 2007/08 prompted me to become first a volunteer as I wanted to give back to something which had given me so much.’

Trust me, I’m a robot

Brexit or not, Rosemere Cancer Centre is set to become a key training hub for advanced robotic surgery in Europe.

Clever negotiations by the centre’s specialist Pelvic Surgery Multidisciplinary Team led by consultants Pierre Martin Hirsch and Nick Wood, mean that it is to receive the world’s latest system ‘on tick’ before the 20 Years Anniversary Appeal to buy it has even kicked off.

No other centre in the north, including The Christie, as yet has such a piece of kit, which will be used to treat patients with colorectal, upper gastrointestinal and gynaecological cancers. Its American manufacturers, Intuitive Surgical Inc, were so impressed by the team, which comes under the auspices of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, that they are way ahead of May and Trump on the special relationship front!

Using the system, the team will be able to operate on difficult to reach areas of the body through just a few small, precise incisions rather than more radical cuts. The robot has five octopus-like arms, which can be suspended above the patient, at the end of which are fully jointed tiny wristed instruments that, unlike a human hand, bend and rotate 360 degrees.

They will be controlled by Nick or one of the team from a console linked to a magnified 3D high definition vision system.

An excited Nick said: ‘The Xi robot will give us a chance to provide the very best service possible to our patients and allow us to push the boundaries in the development of better treatment techniques for the future.’

Tomorrow’s medicine today

Last year Rosemere patients were involved in 25 clinical trials but the quest to find tomorrow’s medicines today is the Holy Grail and the Rosemere is determined to play a leading role.

A mark of Rosemere’s ambition is the fact it has chosen as a 20 Years Anniversary Appeal project to have a specialist cancer trials manager and the addition of an on-site pharmacy and path lab for blood and tissue testing in a research facility that opened last year. As Gemma Whiteley, head of research and innovation, explains: ‘The trials we are looking to do in this new facility are really important as they take research from the laboratory setting and translate the findings into practical applications, helping us discover new treatments and evaluate the outcomes and side-effects.’

And just as therapies are evolving, so is the accommodation offered to patients and their families when they have to come into the centre for a stay.

The centre’s 28 bed Ribblesdale Ward, currently laid out in traditional hospital style, is going to be completely overhauled to be as much as a home from home as possible.

Catherine Silcock, the divisional director for nursing – surgery, said: ‘The drive to continue to develop and explore better ways in which we can improve the experience of care for cancer patients has always been of paramount importance.’

In the swing

Ever since day one, the Rosemere Cancer Centre has been supported by its own charity, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation.

Over the years has run appeals and raised millions of pounds to ensure the centre has the latest in cutting edge equipment, its clinical staff can be involved in research and those on a journey through cancer treatment never feel on their own – the added extras outside the NHS’ remit.

It’s won the charity many loyal supporters – individuals plus companies such as St Anne’s based Beaverbrooks the Jewellers, the Furness Building Society and Bamber Bridge construction firm Eric Wright Group.

Another loyal band are Rosemere Golfers Against Cancer who have raised more than £100,000. w

To find out more, visit www.rosemere.org.uk which details fundraising events, including those supporting its 20 Years Anniversary Appeal. You can help to ensure the centre’s birthday is one to remember..

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