Ottery St Mary Hospital to become new ‘cancer hub’ – with chemotherapy sessions held in town for the first time

Ottery St Mary Hospital is to become a new ‘cancer hub’ in a bid to boost services for patients and their families in East Devon.

Specialists from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s (RD&E) oncology department and charity FORCE will be working together within a dedicated unit at the Keegan Road site.

Access to potentially life-saving treatments will be among the new services available – with chemotherapy sessions held in the town for the first time.

It means the service will move from Honiton Hospital.

Consultants and nurse specialists will also hold cancer clinics and FORCE will offer a variety of support services in Ottery.

The new cancer unit will open for one day a week from Friday, November 20.

It is planned this will increase to five days – Monday to Friday – when staffing levels allow.

Chemotherapy has been available at Honiton Hospital at least once a week since October 2018 as part of an  outreach programme from the Exeter-based FORCE Cancer Charity.

It says the switch to Ottery means the service can ‘increase significantly’.

“While Honiton has proved popular with our patients, we have outgrown the facilities,” said the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s lead cancer nurse Tina Grose.

“The decision was therefore made to consolidate existing outreach into one location, which allowed us to expand, bringing alongside key services such as clinics, FORCE, the Living with and Beyond Cancer programme and enhanced supportive care.”

FORCE chief executive Meriel Fishwick added: “’We are so very grateful to the people of Honiton, especially our wonderful volunteers, for their support of FORCE and the outreach chemotherapy service since it started in October 2018.

“The accommodation in Ottery St Mary Hospital will allow the range of cancer services to expand and FORCE is now planning how it will offer support and information services alongside patients’ vital cancer treatment.”

The benefits of services in Ottery St Mary to people affected by cancer

  • Expert advice and treatment closer to home so less travelling time and expense;
  • Easier parking;
  • Quieter location and treatment area;
  • Reduced waiting time for treatment, both in Ottery and Exeter;
  • Experienced oncology staff from the hospital to deliver services;
  • Access to additional FORCE support for patients and families.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought some disruption to the RD&E’s delivery of chemotherapy in the wider community.

The service, which uses experienced nurses from the hospital’s Cherrybrook chemotherapy unit paid for by FORCE, continued in Okehampton and temporarily increased to two days a week in Honiton.

A short-term suspension of chemo sessions in Tiverton is due to end this month.

FORCE has worked closely with the RD&E to help with the transition from Honiton to Ottery.

The charity hopes to mirror many of the services it offers at its main centre in Exeter at the new East Devon hub.

These could include counselling, complementary therapies, advice and information sessions, physiotherapy and exercise clinics.

It is hoped that volunteers from FORCE will also be involved when COVID-19 restrictions allow.

FORCE says it has adapted its services during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure it continued to offer unparalleled support for local people impacted by cancer.

Counsellors, information nurses, a dedicated benefits advisor and oncology physiotherapist helped hundreds dealing with a cancer diagnosis via phone and video calls.

The FORCE Support and Information Centre in the grounds of the RD&E is now open again with COVID secure measures in place.

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