The Christie's £26m cancer centre in Macclesfield has marked its first anniversary this month.
Funded through £23m from The Christie charity, The Christie at Macclesfield has transformed cancer care for NHS patients, not just in East Cheshire but in the rest of the county, North Staffordshire and the High Peak area of Derbyshire, with the most common cancers like breast, bowel, lung and prostate.
In its first 12 months, The Christie at Macclesfield has provided a total of over 32,000 appointments, including 12,820 radiotherapy appointment for 1,211 radiotherapy patients, 6,517 chemotherapy and haematology treatment sessions and over 12,000 outpatient appointments.
The first chemotherapy patient to use the new centre was Sue Thompson, 59, from Holmes Chapel. Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2021. The first radiotherapy patient to have treatment was Thomas Walker, 67, also from Holmes Chapel.
One of the many patients to benefit from The Christie at Macclesfield over the past year is Philip Harris, 69, from Nantwich. The retired Managing Director was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2021 and started radiotherapy treatment at The Christie at Macclesfield in December 2022.
Before being diagnosed with cancer, Philip felt something was wrong as he had pain in his tummy. A blood test identified a raised level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in his body, and a follow-up test in June 2022 showed the level of PSA was slightly more elevated, at which point a scan was done, followed by a biopsy.
Philip said: "Sometimes you get a feeling something is wrong with your body. I'm an engineer, so I like to get to the bottom of a problem, whether it be with a piece of equipment or my own body. Sadly, too many men are bad at listening to their bodies, and they bury their heads in the sand, pretending there is nothing wrong. By the time they ask the doctor for help, it can often be too late."
Philip started on a hormone therapy injection given once a month at his GP practice. As the cancer was growing relatively slowly, he later researched all treatment options and agreed to have radiotherapy rather than surgery, primarily because it has fewer side effects.
The radiotherapy treatment started at The Christie at Macclesfield in December 2022. Philip had 20 daily radiotherapy sessions over a 4-week period, including on New Year's Eve.
"I can't praise The Christie at Macclesfield enough," said Philip. "The staff were incredibly professional, as one would expect. However, they go above and beyond to make you feel at ease, removing any fears you might have during treatment. They are using the very latest equipment, they answered all my questions and helped me understand how the treatment machine works.
"My appointments were on time, the receptionists were friendly, the centre was always clean, and they looked after me really well. It's a very friendly atmosphere as you are treated as an individual.
"A lot of care has gone into the design of the building and training of staff at The Christie at Macclesfield. It really is the Rolls Royce of cancer treatment facilities, and we are so lucky in Cheshire to have it on our doorstep.
"Macclesfield is a better location for me compared with the Withington site. Coming to Macclesfield from mid-Cheshire saved me at least 20 minutes each way and meant I didn't have to use the motorway. The journey time was much more predictable too, which is important to me, as I hate to be late for anything.
"Since finishing treatment, my side effects have been negligible, and I am pleased with what everyone at The Christie Macclesfield did for me. This is a fully patient-focused facility.”
Patients like Philip previously had to travel to Withington in South Manchester for treatment.
Rhiannon Breese, senior radiographer at The Christie at Macclesfield, said: “Philip was fascinated by how the radiotherapy linear accelerators worked and asked us lots of questions about them, which we were pleased to answer. Radiotherapy is such an unknown to so many people, so I find that taking the time to explain how it works takes away the fear.
“He was also very kind and brought fruit in for the staff once a week, which we really appreciated! We are delighted that he has found the new centre to be of a very high standard, as we aim to give all our patients at The Christie at Macclesfield the very best possible care.”
Philip's son, Peter Harris, is running in the London Marathon on 23 April 2023 after years of trying to get in via the ballot system. He has decided to raise money for The Christie at Macclesfield, which has helped his dad.
At full capacity, The Christie at Macclesfield provides 46,000 patient appointments and visits each year and care closer to home for more than 1,500 patients a year. This includes around 12,500 radiotherapy appointments and 6,800 chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormonal treatments.
The centre provides a range of holistic services, including outpatient care, nurse-led clinics, counselling services, an information centre, palliative care and clinical trials. It also has a CT scanner where radiotherapy treatments are planned, complementary therapy rooms and a charity centre.
Patients with rare and complex cancers will continue to be treated at The Christie in Withington.
The chief executive of The Christie, Roger Spencer, said: "It is already clear that The Christie at Macclesfield is making a big difference to our patients. For radiotherapy patients in particular, the new centre is cutting journey times for patients and their families.
"The staff have worked so hard to make The Christie at Macclesfield a success during its first year and will continue to do their very best for all our patients."
The Christie has produced a short video of the new centre so that patients can look around before they come for treatment.
The Christie at Macclesfield is the third in a network of local Christie radiotherapy centres where patients can access first-class radiotherapy treatments from Christie experts, but much closer to home. The other centres are in Oldham and Salford. The radiotherapy centre in Withington remains the largest in Europe.
Work on The Christie at Macclesfield commenced in the summer of 2020, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was completed on time and on budget.
Following the completion of the new cancer centre, there is still more to be done to support cancer patients as they go through their treatment. The Christie charity provides enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes complementary therapy, patient refreshments, and other supportive services at Macclesfield. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that we can provide. To support patients at The Christie at Macclesfield, visit the Macclesfield section of our charity website or call the team on 0161 446 3988.