Nursing staff on The Christie's mobile chemotherapy unit have been trained in specialist relaxation techniques to use with patients who suffer from needle phobias or anxiety.

Funded by The Christie charity, a senior therapist from the hospital's complementary therapy health and well-being team held practical training sessions with the nurses in breathing exercises, relaxing hand massage, muscle relaxation, the use of stress balls and how to use creative visualisation.

This was to ensure that patients experiencing anxiety or needle phobia had access to the same support and care available at the hospital's main site in Withington.

Chemotherapy outreach manager at The Christie, Vicki Burns, said: "It's normal for patients to experience feelings of anxiety, worry or panic at times following a cancer diagnosis. Some patients can develop a fear of needles which can make their treatment feel extremely daunting."

Lucy Henderson, health care support worker on The Christie mobile chemotherapy unit, added: "One of our patients became very nervous every time it came to having the treatment needle inserted. On her last visit, we tried the breathing exercises, and she used the stress balls. It made such a difference."

Norah Lees, 67 from Urmston is a Christie patient who comes to the mobile chemotherapy unit for treatment in Stretford, she said: "Being able to have my treatment locally is brilliant for me as I developed an anxiety and a fear of coming in for treatment. Not only is the mobile unit just 15 minutes away from my home, the wonderful nurses and calming techniques that they use with us make it is far less daunting. Last week I was relaxed enough to have a cup of tea and chocolate as I had my treatment.

"If anything can be wonderful when you have cancer, the mobile chemotherapy unit is. I have never looked back."

Glynis Baird, aged 60 a Christie patient from Partington, also comes to the mobile chemotherapy unit. She said: "I often feel nervous before coming in for my treatment but as soon as I see the nurses they put me at ease. Last week one of the nurses gave me a relaxing hand massage so I felt relaxed before my treatment even started.

"Having someone on hand on the unit to help calm and relax me made such a difference and they have taught me methods that I can use myself."

Linda Orrett, senior therapist in the complementary therapy health and well-being team at The Christie who led the training, said: "Needle phobia and anxiety in cancer patients is quite common, we have treated over a thousand needle phobic patients at our main site in the past three years. I have recently started training sessions with nurses at one of the other Christie outreach sites at Wigan, which I aim to have completed by the end of the year."

The bespoke mobile chemotherapy unit, which cost £700,000, is stationed at Tesco Extra branches in Rochdale, Stretford and Hyde, at the Asda Superstore in Chadderton and also at Royal Bolton Hospital.

The tailor-made trailer has four treatment chairs to enable Christie nurses to treat up to 20 cancer patients a day. Fully funded by the Christie charity it treats patients five days a week from 9am - 4pm.

All patients using the mobile unit are assessed by a Christie nurse before their treatment begins and continue to have regular reviews by their Christie consultant.

Christie patients living in one of the five areas the unit visits can find out if they are eligible to be treated at the mobile unit by calling 0161 918 7671.

The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust through its fundraising activities, and delivers projects, equipment and improvements that are in line with the Trust's overall plans and strategy. The charity has over 30,000 supporters who raised £13.3m last year.