Cancer support for patients and families in East Devon ‘improves significantly’ thanks to charity’s work in Ottery

Cancer charity FORCE has hailed a success its oncology hub in Ottery, supporting East Devon patients and their families for free.

The charity said support for cancer patients and their families in East Devon was ‘improving significantly’ thanks to the work of FORCE.

Such is the need of the oncology hub the charity is appealing for volunteers to help the service run smoothly.

Volunteers help out at the Rowan Unit, based at the town’s hospital, between 9am to 4.30pm with a 12.45 shift changeover – but the hours are negotiable.

A spokeswoman for the cancer charity said: “The increase in chemotherapy sessions and support services at Ottery St Mary Hospital means there are more volunteering roles available with FORCE.”

The charity said it had ‘played an important role’ setting up an oncology hub at Ottery St Mary Hospital in 2020 – announcing it plans to introduce support groups in the town later this year.

Meriel Fishwick, FORCE Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be working so closely with the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in making the oncology service at Ottery such a success.

“We understand the value of going out to meet people in their communities, making access to the free services we provide as easy as possible.

“The variety of support available through FORCE is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

She added: “Our commitment to getting our support services back into more Devon communities is gathering pace.”

She said Ottery St Mary served ‘as a great blueprint’ for the future redevelopment of the charity’s plan to help more people where they live.

“It has been fantastic to see the service at Ottery grow and the feedback from everyone involved highlights just how important it is,” she said.

“With our East Devon service well set, there are now plans to return to Okehampton and find a suitable location for an outreach centre in Mid Devon.”

FORCE’s mission to get back out into the community after the restrictions imposed by the pandemic were boosted by a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund.

Lottery cash has helped the charity rebuild its programme of boosting local face-to-face services.

The Rowan Unit at Ottery St Mary Hospital became a cancer centre in December 2020. FORCE’s services are offered free of charge.

There is a large room for chemotherapy where specialist nursing staff from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital see between 12 to 24 patients a day.

The service is due to expand to every weekday from June.

A spokeswoman for FORCE said: “As well as supporting the nurses delivering chemotherapy there – a vital service pump primed by funding from FORCE – the charity is now able to offer a growing range of support and advice for anyone locally affected by a cancer diagnosis.”

She said the charity has set up individual counselling, complementary therapies and one-to-one exercise advice from specialist physiotherapists, all available by appointment.

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