Byline: Helen Rae
ANEW centre in the North East for patients requiring essential chemotherapy services will be one of the first of its kind in the country.
The recently-opened chemotherapy unit at Washington Primary Care Centre has been established as an outreach project - extending the services available from the chemotherapy day unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Establishing services outside a main hospital represents a new approach to chemotherapy service delivery and is designed to enable patients to receive common and non-complex chemotherapy treatment closer to their homes.
Melanie Robertson, nurse consultant for oncology and lead cancer nurse at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The opening of the new centre means that we can now offer chemotherapy patients a range of options that are not generally available elsewhere.
"The chemotherapy day unit is our main centre of activity, but we can also provide some services for patients in their own homes or provide appointments at the new Washington outreach centre for those who may now find this location more conveni-ent.
The home chemotherapy service has been in place for a few years now, and although not suitable for all patients, has shown that chemotherapy treatments can be delivered safely and effectively outside main district hospitals.
"Importantly, as well as increasing patient choice, the new centre also increases our treatment capacity, reducing waiting times and increasing the flexibility of the services we provide."
The nurse-led Washington chemotherapy unit is currently open three days a week and will eventually be available over five days.
It can accommodate patients requiring treatment for virtually all types of cancers with oral or intravenous drugs and when fully operational will have the capacity for 16-20 patients a day.
Depending on the type of cancer involved, patients typically attend for a six-month course, which may then be repeated at some future stage.
The new unit can cater for patients who require chemotherapy for up to four hours.
Paula Goodson, sister in the chemotherapy day unit, said: "The extended duration normally associated with chemo-therapmeans that it can be very demanding for patients and has a considerable impact on their daily activities.
"By providing a specialist chemotherapy service closer to home for some patients we therefore hope that the Washington centre will considerably reduce the timescales involved and help to improve their quality of life. …