Photo gallery: Royal visitor opens new cancer treatment centre at N&N
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2014
A new era in cancer treatment was hailed today with the opening of a new radiotherapy unit, which is set to increase capacity at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital by 25pc.
The Duke of Gloucester, the Queen's cousin, officially launched the £4.5m centre, which houses a radiotherapy machine that is four times as quick as the hospital's existing linear accelerators.
Officials from the Colney hospital said the Winterton Unit would increase cancer treatment capacity with more people in Norfolk and Suffolk being diagnosed with the disease.
The Duke was given a tour and met with staff and patients at the new centre, which is next to the Mulbarton ward. The royal visitor unveiled a plaque marking the opening of the unit and was the first to sign its visitor book.
The Duke, who is also president of Cancer Research UK, said he was 'very pleased' to perform the official opening.
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'It is a wonderful thing that we are so effective in fighting cancer. You have the best and most accurate and precise equipment and you are able to provide cures for those lucky enough to live in this area,' he said.
Work began on the unit in November 2012 and the building work was completed at the end of last year. The facility opened to patients last week after months of testing on the new £1.5m linear accelerator.
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The N&N, which has seen an 80pc increase in demand for cancer treatment over the last seven years, treats 2,500 cancer patients a year and performs 34,000 individual treatments a year. The new facility increases capacity to deliver an extra 10,000 treatments a year.
The unit also has a second bunker for another linear accelerator machine to meet predicted future demand over the next ten years. The extension has also led to the creation of a new three-bay Acute Oncology Service where patients can be treated if they experience complications during radiotherapy.
Tom Roques, clinical director for radiotherapy, said cancer rates were increasing around 5pc a year because of Norfolk's ageing population and better diagnosis rates.
'Radiotherapy is one of the most important ways to cure cancer and it is a very important weapon against cancer and it is becoming more common. It is very important for the hospital and patients to enable us to continue to give real state-of-the-art radiotherapy and increase capacity,' he said.
Geoff Hind, 73, of Bawdeswell, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September and is close to completing his radiotherapy treatment at the Winterton Unit. The former dental surgeon said the new unit was an 'amazing set up'.
'Personally, it will give me piece of mind that I know I have the best facilities in the country for dealing with this sort of treatments. I always feel that they are doing the best for me,' he said.