Durham's hospital bosses, campaigning to raise more than £2 million to tackle an overwhelming rise in demand for cancer treatment, have offered a thousand thanks to the city’s freemen for responding to their appeal.
A total of 2020 businesses, organisations, groups and schools county-wide are being sought to make a £1,000 donation towards the cost of the “big build” – the creation of a centre of excellence for cancer care at the University Hospital of North Durham.
The existing chemotherapy day unit at the hospital struggles to meet the needs of ever increasing numbers being diagnosed, particularly across the main cancer groups of bowel, prostate, breast and lung cancer – which represent some of the biggest increases in England. To alleviate pressure at the Durham City hospital some patients are being sent to Newcastle and Middlesbrough for treatment.
The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust admits it faces many challenges as it invests to support the largest trust in the north east with eight hospitals. The immediate need in investment priority, says the trust, is to provide new Accident and Emergency and new theatres and on that basis the chemotherapy unit would be many years away from reality without charitable funding.
Alan Ribchester, a member of the freemen’s charitable trust, said he and his colleagues had no hesitation in pledging their £1,000 towards the cost of helping buy vital equipment for the centre.
“The men and women within our ranks are well aware of the ever increasing incidence of the various forms of cancer and there are few families who have not been touched by the disease in one form or another. We all feel privileged to be able to help provide the new enhanced and sorely needed centre of excellence in our city,” he said.
The NHS foundation trust’s charity development manager, Pat Chambers, explained: “We are working hard to deliver this new centre of excellence in cancer care here in Durham funded through charitable giving. The reality is that without the help of organisations and businesses like the City of Durham Freemen we would simply not be able to make this vision a reality.”
It is hoped work on the centre could begin early next year and be operational within 12 months of the start date. The support of each donor will be recognised with an inscription on the “2020 wall of honour” within the new building.