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Chris Woolmams / Catherine Woollams
Ten hospital cancer treatment centres

Ten at the Top ~ Centres of Excellence

10 Great British Hospital cancer treatment centres (icon 2004)

This is a fun review of British hospitals and cancer centres that were going the extra yard in cancer care.

Only excellence is good enough when it comes to cancer care.

So we have scouted the UK for hospital cancer treatment centres that care enough to go the extra mile, delivering (if only in some small but particularly thoughtful detail) the best and beyond.

1: Cool caps
Hats off for the cool caps offered to chemotherapy patients (mostly battling breast cancer) at MACCLESFIELD Hospital. A rare NHS perk, these caps help reduce the hair loss which so undermines self-image. Reminiscent of a l920s cloche, it is made of lycra-like material and filled with silicone chilled to a low temperatures by tubes attached to a refrigerator system. The cool cap has a 70 per cent success rate - bad for the wig trade but great for morale. "Its a quality of life issue" says lead cancer nurse Karen Buckley.

2: New Cross Hospital

Raising the standard
Faded floral curtains scuzzy lino and bathroom tiling out of the ark have no place in the new 1m Snowdrop Milllennium cancer suite in New Cross Hospital, WOLVERHAMPTON. The fittings have five star hotel quality, and every patient has individual access to the phone and internet. Welcoming comfort is seen as a priority all part of the clinical service.

3: Monklands Hospital, AIRDRIE

No Waiting
Waiting can be the worst torment but at Monklands Hospital, AIRDRIE, ScotLand, the one-stop breast cancer clinic delivers same day test results to two out of three women. Elaine Ferguson, Lanarkshires lead breast care nurse, explains that a GP referral taxed through on Friday means the patient is seen at clinic the very next Tuesday. Mammogram and ultrasound is followed (where necessary) by fine needle biopsy. Cytologists working within the clinic report back in 10-15 minutes. Core biopsy is also conducted on site with two specia!ist nurses to support patients on diagnosis. Surgery dates are offered within two weeks, If Lanarkshire can do it, why cant the rest of the world?

Cutting Edge Centre

4: Colney Cancer Centre

Cutting edge Centre
The Colney Cancer Centre at NORFOLK and NORWICH University Hospital benefits from a state-of-the-art 20m investment. It now houses the most advanced radiotherapy equipment, guaranteed to remain cutting edge for the next 15 years, as maintenance and upgrading has been written into the US suppliers contract. The new technology has already meant some patients having treatment times reduced from many hours to a few minutes.

Records - from scans to treatment plans have been computerised to a degree unique in the UK so that people can be monitored seamlessly throughout their treatment.

Nurses and radiographers are being trained to understand each others role so that they can better support and enlighten patients - Sister Sarah Thirkettle stresses that moving too fast is sometimes counter-productive to shocked patients. "Then we need to stand back and give them time to get used to a cancer diagnosis."

5: Clown comfort
Laughter is the best medicine for kids with cancer in eight nationwide hospitals including Addenbrookes, CAMBRIDGE, Gt Ormond Street, LONDON, the Royal Alexandra in BRIGHTON.

"Clown doctors" with white coats, funny make up and huge feet visit the wards every week pitching fun, magic and balloon sculpture to the entertainment level each child can handle. One childs parents remember their daughter lying in bed, covered with tubes and drains and silent for several days until the clown doctor walked in and their daughters eyes sparkled - she was hooked.

Clown Comfort

Clown doctors are trained and supported by the Theodora Childrens Trust who would love to visit the 30 more hospitals clamouring for their humorous help - if only funding allowed.

6: Face savers
Survival figures at the Maxillofacial cancer unit Aintree Hospital, LIVERPOOL has risen from 69 per cent in the 1990s to 81 per cent. Quality of Life has risen too with new graft techniques using skin, muscle and bone from the leg or hip to rebuild the face, mouth and throat. "Our patients lives are being totally transformed says consultant surgeon Simon Rogers.

7: Royal Free Hospital, LONDON

Rare Care
The Royal Free Hospital, LONDON, leads the way for treatment of neuro-endocrine tumours. 2000 UK patients a year are diagnosed with this relatively rare cancer, which Prof Martyri Caplin has made his special focus. Hes set up a UK Network group for similarly interested medics and is keen to raise GP awareness of this slow-growing condition as diagnosis is often delayed until it has spread.

Caught early The Royal Free can offer individually-tailored therapies including embohisation, radiofrequency ablation and radio-active treatment. But Martyn Caplin modestly maintains the hotline run by two nurse specialists does more for patients than anything he can!

8: Second Site
There are are only two treatment centres in the UK for retinoblastoma, a childhood eye cancer that mainly affects under-fives.

Open quotesTheatre facilities have been upgradedClose quotes

The LONDON centre at Barts has just moved to The Royal London where young patients and their families now benefit from a dedicated childrens ward with specialist nurses.

Theatre facilities have been upgraded and new equipment includes the latest in ophthalmic microscopes. The other centre is at BIRMINGHAM Childrens Hospital.

9: Kids stuff
Jimmys in LEEDS boasts one of just eight specialist teenage cancer units in the country. "Designed by the kids themselves as a home from home, it has colourful paintwork, a big tv, computers, large squashy sofas and a pool table" says Sue Morgan, Macmillan clinical nurse specialist. The unit has just recruited a learning mentor, and a designated activity co- ordinator organises fun distractions from takeaways to visiting Alton Towers.

10: Man appeal
Western General Hospital, EDINBURGH is home to the UKs first dedicated mate cancer unit. The waiting area - a conservatory with patio - is "informal and relaxing," says clinical nurse specialist Sheila Liggett, "as patients awaiting consultation dont particularly want a full-frontal clinical setting that cries out cancer. Theres also an internet connection so people can access medical information."
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