Norfolk cancer charity aims to expand support centre network

Nikki Morris(right) with support staff Daphne Skinner, Anne Templeman and Marion Andrews at the Big

Nikki Morris(right) with support staff Daphne Skinner, Anne Templeman and Marion Andrews at the Big C Centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A charity that has helped thousands of cancer patients and their families for almost 35 years is looking to expand its network of information and support centres to other parts of Norfolk.

Big C has gone from strength to strength since its formation in 1980 by two local men, who had to travel to London for treatment.

Officials from the Norfolk-based charity are now looking to set up more cancer support and information centres across the county to offer a wide range of practical and emotional help to patients, their carers, and family members.

The organisation, which dedicates all of its funding to projects in Norfolk, opened the Big C Centre in the grounds of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in 2006, which was followed by the opening of an information and support centre in Great Yarmouth in 2012 and in King's Lynn last year.

Leaders from the charity, which is also based at the Louise Hamilton Centre at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, are hoping to expand into north Norfolk and south Norfolk in the future to provide valuable support for more local patients at a time when cancer diagnosis rates continue to rise.

Nikki Morris, deputy CEO, said a move to place support and information centres in high street locations had been successful in helping to raise the profile of Big C and help more patients.

'We undertook a project asking people in Norfolk what they wanted from support services and they wanted what we had in Norwich, but closer to home and that is why we expanded to King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth. We are a Norfolk charity and want to be there for everyone in Norfolk and it is important to provide services that people know about and access.'

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'Going forward, it is about rising to the challenge. We do not have a centre in north Norfolk or south Norfolk. We have shops in Cromer and Sheringham and we are very keen to explore ways to provide more services locally and we are conscious that we do not have services in Diss and Thetford.'

'We know our niche and what we are really good at is providing local people with local information and support and research that is based locally and make a real difference,' she said.

Big C costs around £750,000 a year to operate and is run by an army of 300 volunteers and 55 members of staff.

The Big C Centre in Colney has gone from 184 drop-in visits a month in its first year to more than 800 a month in 2014 as a result of increased demand and the increased profile.

The charity's staff are also available every Monday at the Millennium Library in the Forum in Norwich to help. Since 1997, the charity has raised more than £1m for medical equipment and £2.5m into research.

Mrs Morris said the organisation would continue to support local research projects and had recently invested £250,000 to help build the new Norwich Medical Research Building on the Norwich Research Park, which is set to be completed later this year.

• Big C Centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is open 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and is open until 7pm on the first Wednesday of every month. Call 01603 286112 or email cancer.information@nnuh.nhs.uk

• The Big C Cancer support and information centre at 33 Regent Street, Great Yarmouth, is open Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm. Call 01493 855297 or email yarmouthcentre@big-c.co.uk

• The charity's cancer support and information centre in 32 Norfolk Street, King's Lynn, is open Tuesday to Thursday from 9am to 4.30pm. Call 01553 818737 or email kingslynncentre@big-c.co.uk

• The Big C support at the Louise Hamilton Centre at the James Paget University Hospital is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 7.30pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

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