NHS patients are a step closer to having high energy proton beam therapy in the UK, after the official signing of contracts for the equipment supplier and building contractors for the two NHS proton beam therapy centres in Manchester and London.

The centres at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) are expected to open from 2018.

The building contractor for The Christie is Interserve Construction Ltd, part of Interserve Plc, the international support services and construction group. The UCLH centre will be built by Bouygues UK, which has a strong track record in delivering complex hospital projects across the capital. The equipment supplier for both centres is Varian Medical Systems.

Proton beam therapy is a particularly important form of cancer treatment as it targets complex and harder to reach tumours more precisely with less damage to surrounding tissues, which can lead to improving the quality of life for patients following treatment.

The Government is investing £250m into building and equipping the two NHS centres and construction is currently beginning.

As part of the NHS Proton Overseas Programme, Lucy Thomas, from Ramsbottom in Lancashire, was just six years old when she spent almost 11 weeks in Oklahoma receiving proton beam therapy for a rare type of muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.

Lucy's dad Stuart says: "Although we received excellent care and treatment abroad, it would have been easier if it had been available in the UK. We felt cut off from our extended family and close friends just when we needed them the most."

Chief Executive of The Christie, Roger Spencer, said: "To be able to offer the world's most advanced form of radiotherapy through the NHS in the UK is a real step change for patients ensuring they benefit from local access to this advanced form of treatment, with potentially better outcomes and less chance of
long term side effects.

Chief Executive of UCLH, Sir Robert Naylor, said: "I am delighted that construction work can now begin in earnest for these NHS clinical facilities. They will make a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of NHS patients every year and help us to advance our research into precision cancer medicine."

While The Christie and UCLH centres are being built, all clinically appropriate NHS patients will continue to be funded to go overseas for treatment with NHS England's established partner centres.