A cancer treatment powerhouse

The Christie

Located just south of Manchester in the North of England, the Christie NHS Foundation Trust is today the largest single site cancer centre in Europe, treating 44,000 patients a year. The Trust houses the UKs largest chemotherapy unit and one of the world’s largest radiotherapy departments – responsible for numerous clinical breakthroughs and ‘world firsts’, that have impacted the scope and direction of cancer treatments over the last 100 years.

The Christie is an international leader in the field of research and clinical development, employing over 2,500 staff across its services. This includes the largest single-site early phase clinical trial unit in the world, and one of the largest trial portfolios in the UK, with over 550 active clinical trials open.

In 2006 The Christie partnered with The University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK to form The Manchester Cancer Research Centre. This brings together research and clinicians to find better, more effective and personalised treatments.

The Christie is one of only two centres in the UK to be awarded Cancer Research UK status for excellence in cancer care, this coupled with the ground breaking work in clinical trials gives patients access to breakthrough drugs and the latest cancer treatment, with 26 % of patients travelling from across the UK for their cancer care.

The Christie Clinic

Regarded as an innovator, The Christie broadened their ambitions to consider a partnership with a private provider, to deliver quality cancer care to private patients, widening the scope of the offer in Manchester and cementing The Christie’s position as a destination for patients from across the UK and the globe. In September 2010 HCA Healthcare UK and The Christie joined forces and The Christie Clinic was formed.

HCA Healthcare is the largest provider of private cancer care in the UK and has a reputation for delivering acute care in a private setting. This joint venture means that private patients can be treated at a leading cancer centre, whilst raising resources for the NHS that can be reinvested back into services. 

Claire Smith, Chief Executive Officer, HCA Healthcare UK Joint Ventures, says “The Christie Clinic is the first of its kind in the North-West. Through The Christie Clinic we are able to support patients throughout their cancer journey and in one place- from diagnostics, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and beyond. The strength of the partnership has also enabled us to open a dedicated haematology bone marrow transplant unit.

“Providing a patient with a seamless pathway at what can be a very unsettling and emotional time is something we strive to do across all of our joint ventures and we are extremely proud and privileged to be working in partnership with the Trust. Our shared commitment to delivering the highest quality patient care is helping to broaden the range of care available in Manchester whilst generating significant financial income for the NHS".”

Professor Sarah O’Dwyer, Clinical Director at The Christie Clinic adds “We explain the partnership to all of our patients who have private insurance and might have otherwise used the NHS, and they actually feel very comforted by the fact they can use their private health insurance whilst still contributing to NHS resources and ultimately benefiting NHS patients.”

Specialist Treatment

As a specialist cancer facility The Christie Clinic offers treatment for solid tumours and blood cancers, with a comprehensive pathway onsite for diagnosis, surgical intervention, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell and bone marrow transplant.

Being based onsite at The Christie means that patients can have treatment for complex cancers, “We provide some very highly specialised services” says Professor O’Dwyer. The Clinic performs surgery for rare cancers, particularly in the lining tissue of the organs in the abdomen, where rare tumours can develop. “We are one of only two centres in the UK licensed to carry out this treatment – consisting of a mixture of pioneering surgical techniques and chemotherapy in the abdomen. We develop those techniques to translate into treatment for more common cancers that can spread in the area where peritoneal cancers normally locate.” adds Professor O’Dwyer.

Pioneering new treatments for rare cancers means that The Christie attracts referrals from across the world “We have had overseas visitors who visit us to learn about what we do and how we do it – our surgeons have even performed surgery during a live operation educational event in Chennai India.”

Holistic Cancer Care

A cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience for any patient and has a significant emotional and psychological impact. Holistic care allows all needs of a patient to be assessed and addressed accordingly, not just their physical illness and ‘cancer treatment’, but their emotional and psychological needs too. “We don’t just carry out an operation or give chemotherapy,” Professor O’Dwyer explains. “We have the entire support network for those patients who are treated here, whether that is as a private patient or NHS patient.”

In order to provide holistic cancer care a multidisciplinary team of specialists come together to continually review and adapt treatment plans “We invite all our different cancer specialists to come together, at the same time in the same room – to discuss the best course of treatment specific to your case,” Professor O’Dwyer explains. “Safe and effective care in the best possible environment is what our patients are looking for. And we have a host of clinical support structures in place including MacMillan Cancer Support and complementary therapy support; this means our patients are given that extra level of care.”

In terms of nursing care, The Christie Clinic is focused on delivering excellent standards and ensures that nurse to patient ratios allow for this. “Our level of nursing care means there is always someone who can answer any questions – to reassure and look after our patients from the very beginning until the very end of their journey with us.” Says Professor O’Dwyer.

Oonagh McGugan, Clinical Services Manager at The Christie Clinic, echoes this sentiment; “We are committed to providing high quality healthcare and in order to do this we ensure that our nurse to patient ratios are reviewed daily. This allows us to make sure we have the right levels of staff to deliver safe and effective care, where clinically necessary we can even provide 1:1 nursing care, for patients who are very unwell.” The nursing team includes Clinical Nurse Specialists who are skilled in particular tumour groups, this means patients have an expert nurse to answer any and offer support and guidance throughout treatment.

The Christie Clinic is mindful that for patients who may have travelled from overseas for treatment this can be a very difficult time; particularly as many may be unfamiliar with the UK and the treatment process when they arrive. “Being in a different country and culture can be very frightening, let alone being in a hospital environment. We are aware that international patients may need additional support and we can arrange for interpreting and other services to ensure patients are fully informed and supported at all stages of their treatment with us” says Oonagh.

This supportive care doesn’t end after treatment and patients have continued access to nurses and the clinical team “even if a patient has had successful treatment, they can always phone further down the line,” Oonagh adds. With this dedicated approach to care it is unsurprising that patients regularly score these services as excellent in satisfaction surveys.

Research and partnering overseas

The Christie is committed to developing long term strategic partnerships and has even partnered with hospitals overseas to develop new and more effective services under the mentorship of teams with extensive experience in innovative treatment and research. “We can show them very detailed, long, procedures that take about 10 or 12 hours,” Professor O’Dwyer explains. “When it was first introduced people said there were too many complications. But our results have proved that this simply isn’t the case.” “If you have a team that can deliver treatment safely, they can then move on to teach others – avoiding a long learning curve with potential causalities along the way. This is one of the real advantages of partnership. It’s all about ensuring the correct selection and getting the right patient in the right place with the best possible team.”

The Christie recently partnered with the Madras Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (MIOT) in Chennai, South West India – to help develop further its cancer care provision in a more organised, efficient and better way. Professor O’Dwyer explains; “MIOT is a unique setup in India, established by an entire family. The father was an orthopaedic surgeon who worked in the NHS, before returning to India to open this hospital. Aware of The Christie’s success, he wanted to adopt some of our care delivery concepts. And he’s very much modelling the care process on the standards of The Christie, including expert multidisciplinary teams.”

With innovation and breakthrough treatments comes fresh hope for patients living with cancer. “The most important thing for any patient is successful, safe treatment in the best possible environment,” concludes Professor O’Dwyer. Combining world class research, expert multidisciplinary teams and holistic treatment at the UK’s largest single site cancer facility means that NHS, private and international patients can receive the best possible care.

Last updated: September 2019