The Christie at Oldham, the first in a unique network of Christie radiotherapy centres allowing thousands of patients to be treated closer to home, will celebrate its 10th birthday on Monday (16 March).
The centre, which was opened in March 2010, cost £17m and was funded after the generous people of Oldham and surrounding areas supported a major fundraising campaign by The Christie charity to bring the first facility of its kind in the UK to The Royal Oldham Hospital.
Previously patients across Greater Manchester could only access radiotherapy at The Christie’s main site in South Manchester. Opening in a blaze of glory with a visit from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the centre has gone on to deliver more than 160,000 patient treatments, saving thousands of patients a gruelling three-hour round trip for daily treatment for up to six weeks at a time.
The centre is now treating more patients than ever before, with increased opening hours and skilled radiographers delivering care to more types of cancers. Clinics which used to be held in Withington have also been moved to Oldham to make access to Christie staff even easier. Support services have also increased including complementary therapies, fatigue sessions to help patients cope with treatment side effects and workshops on living with and beyond cancer.
Lead radiographer Julie Davies has been in charge at Oldham since it first opened. She said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating 10 years of treating patients here in Oldham. Patients tell me every day what a huge difference it makes to be able to have their treatment nearer to home. I’m so proud of how we have been able to expand the services and support for our patients and increase the out-patient clinic access for so many people. This ensures our patients can have as much of their Christie experience here at Oldham, rather than travelling to Manchester.”
One of the very first to be treated was prostate cancer patient Monty Woolfe from Bury. Now aged 88, he remains extremely grateful for the care he received. He said: “Thanks to the treatment I had 10 years ago, I continue to enjoy a happy and long retirement with my family. I still have regular checks and thankfully everything appears to be OK. I was pleased to be one of the first to be treated at Oldham as it saved me the nightmare of all that travel.”
The drive to provide care closer to home where possible for patients is one of the main aims of The Christie to make cancer care as easy and convenient for patients as possible. Since Oldham opened in 2010, The Christie has gone on to open another radiotherapy centre in Salford as well as introduce local chemotherapy clinics at 12 other sites, a mobile chemotherapy unit and in patients’ homes. Plans are also in place and fundraising is currently in full swing to build a new Christie centre in Macclesfield.
Roger Spencer, Chief Executive at The Christie, said: “Oldham was the first in our flagship programme to provide care closer to home which has undoubtedly transformed cancer care, enabling high-quality specialist care to be provided to reliable uniform standards across the region. The Christie radiotherapy network alone has saved 34,000 return journeys each year, equating to over one million miles of reduced travelling for patients annually. One third of all Christie radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment is now provided away from the main hospital site and this will rise to half of all treatments on completion of our planned new centre in Macclesfield.
“Of clinically eligible treatments 80 per cent are now provided away from our main site in Withington, saving many patients lengthy journeys. Of course, Oldham was the first centre to help make this possible, so it is with great pleasure we celebrate 10 years of cancer care there today.”
John Haywood, a Chief Inspector with Greater Manchester Police, is currently midway through a course of radiotherapy treatment at Oldham for lymphoma. John, aged 46, said: “I’ve had quite a few appointments at the main site in Withington, and the difference it makes to be able to have my treatment nearer home is remarkable. The travel time is less, you get to know the staff, and you can park almost outside the door, so it really is ideal when you’re going for treatment on a daily basis.”
To mark the occasion on Monday, patients and staff will be treated with tea and cakes provided free of charge by Park Cakes and Booker Wholesale. A further celebration is planned for later in the year.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.