Public support for Big C cancer centre praised as chief reflects on its first 10 years

Nikki Morris, deputy chief executive of the Big C.

Nikki Morris, deputy chief executive of the Big C. - Credit: Archant

Ten years on from a historic fundraising campaign a much-loved cancer centre is continuing to flourish.

Our readers raised around £175,000 towards our Opening the Door campaign, which ran from January 2004 to March 2006.

Nikki Morris, Big C deputy chief executive, said public support was integral to the £250,000 fundraising effort which enabled the charity to build the centre.

Reflecting on the last 10 years, Ms Morris – who was on the original steering group for the centre – said the centre had 'proved its worth'.

'There was nothing like it in Norfolk at the time I joined the planning group,' she said.

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'I remember people saying to me, 'When you finish your career and look back, this will be one of the achievements you will be most proud of'. Looking back now, that is certainly true.'

The centre, situated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), has been one of the biggest success stories in Norfolk since the turn of the millenium.

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When it first opened – in May 2006 – around 550 people used the centre in the first three months. In the same timeframe now the centre sees more than 3,000 visits. 'We wanted it to feel different from the hospital environment,' said Ms Morris, a former N&N cancer nurse.

'It was important for people to make that mental change that they were out of the clinical area and into a non-medical area.

'They should feel like it was a haven – somewhere they could be nurtured, take their time, and relax.'

And it's clear that patients and their families have taken the centre to their hearts, with continued fundraising enabling the charity to provide more services from the centre.

'The biggest change has been the number of services we have provided, and the number of visitors we get,' Ms Morris said.

'Both have grown and grown.

'We have moved from a small number of sessions to offering a portfolio of services. Now we provide family therapy and care for carers – and that's thanks to the Norfolk community who have kept supporting us.' Another big factor in the success of the centre has been the staff and volunteers who work daily at the facility. Service manager Jill Chapman has been an ever-present chief of the day-to-day management of the centre, having led it since it opened.

In addition, patients are helped by a team of nurses, administrators, therapists and volunteers.

Ms Morris said: 'We are very grateful to Jill and all the staff and volunteers for their ongoing dedication and compassion that they show day after day in the centre, helping those that need it most. They are a very special team.'

Meanwhile, Ms Morris said the charity is exploring how the centre can use technology to reach out to more patients in the next few years.

Using online communication tools such as Skype and FaceTime, as well as other forms of telephone support, are among ideas mooted.

However, for now – in an era of financial pressure on the healthcare system – Ms Morris said there was a lot to celebrate from the centre's first decade.

'It provides many more services now than I envisaged 10 years ago,' she said. 'That's something I'm hugely proud of.'

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