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Patient gives thumbs-up to new Oncology and Haematology Unit set to be opened by Lancaster’s mayor and city MP

Written by on 30/01/2024

A patient has given her seal of approval to a new Oncology and Haematology Unit at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI), which will be officially opened by the Mayor of Lancaster and the city’s MP on Friday 2 February.
Julia Grisenthwaite, who has been having treatment from the Oncology Department at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) since 2015, was the first patient to have a behind-the-scenes look around the completed unit last week. Julia is looking forward to attending the opening and seeing the Mayor of Lancaster, Roger Dennison, and Cat Smith, MP, cutting the ribbon at 2pm.

Julia, who was a French teacher before she retired, said: “I love the ceiling lights with images of the sky and the large pictures of trees and local areas on the walls because they take your thoughts outside into the natural world. The large chemotherapy area has the wow factor. I also like the soft green colour scheme – it makes the unit feel much less clinical. It’s nice to have dedicated rooms for patient care such as the aromatherapy room and procedure rooms. It’s more private and much better for patients.

“I like the part of the chemotherapy area where the bays face each other because it’s important to be able to talk with other patients and have that community feel. It can help to chat with others because sometimes you feel you can talk about things that you might not want to share with your family or friends. It’s also good that there are areas where people can have privacy if they wish.

“The team is brilliant and I always come out feeling uplifted when I’ve been in for treatment. I come every three weeks at the moment and love the banter with the nurses and other staff. I feel lucky because the treatment I’m on has been working for all of the time that I’ve been coming here. I’m looking forward to the opening event and seeing everyone else’s reactions.”

The new Oncology and Haematology Unit was built at the same time as the hospital’s new Urology Unit as part of a £9.5million investment in the site.

Robin Wilson, Unit Manager for the Oncology and Haematology Service in Lancaster and Kendal, said: “We’re delighted that Julia is the first patient to have seen the new unit because we have been caring for her for around nine years and have a great relationship.

“Our new unit will massively improve the experience of care for our patients and they are curious to see it. We love the design that the Trust’s Capital Services Team has come up with and the chemotherapy area is the crowning glory of the design.

“The unit has a much better physical environment for our staff to work in due to the additional space and the individual treatment bays are much bigger. The new unit has 14 chemotherapy bays, whereas our old unit at the RLI had 12 bays. The two extra bays will enable us to increase our capacity to see and treat more patients.

“We have a very caring and knowledgeable team of doctors, nurses and support workers who are skilled at making patients feel comfortable. I can’t speak highly enough about their care and dedication. They take the time to really get to know our patients, and they get to know us. We build strong relationships with the patients; that’s one of the great things about working in Oncology. We are also lucky to receive a lot of positive feedback from our patients.”

The unit will open for patients on Monday 5 February and is located in the former Ward 3 in Medical Unit 1 (MU1) of the hospital. It will be open from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and approximately 50 to 70 patients will have treatment in the unit every day. An additional 12 to 15 patients will have blood tests and reviews each week.

There are 10 clinic rooms and the Outpatient Clinics will see approximately 213 Oncology patients and 253 Haematology patients each week. The unit includes a quiet room for patients, carers and relatives, an aromatherapy room, a patients’ beverage bay, a private room where patients can have a PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter used to give chemotherapy or other treatments) inserted, storage areas, a meeting/staff room and a state-of-the-art air handling system which changes the air in the unit up to 15 times per hour.

The RLI’s Oncology and Haematology Team temporarily moved to the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep patients safe from any risk of infection. The Kendal service has now gone back to operating two days a week as it did before the pandemic.

Shaun Helme, Capital Projects Lead from the Capital Services Team, said: “We have created bigger, better and improved facilities to give our patients and staff a much better experience. We’ve designed the new unit so that it has a relaxing and non-clinical environment for patients, carers and families. It’s a unit for the modern healthcare system built in the oldest part of the hospital. The better the patient facilities, the better the care.”

Miss Jane McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer of UHMBT, said: “We have made this huge investment in our cancer facilities because we want to give our patients the best possible care and experience. Our patients are at the heart of everything we do and we’ve taken the needs of patients, families, carers and clinicians into account while developing the unit. The unit will enable our team to focus on improving the experience and outcomes of all of our Oncology and Haematology patients. It will also enable us to provide a more integrated, caring and personalised experience for our patients.”