Regional businesses support ‘world first’ mobile cancer care unit as Hope for Tomorrow launches next generation unit with BMS grant

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Gloucestershire-based charity Hope for Tomorrow has launched their next generation state-of-the-art fully mobile medical cancer care unit, thanks to the support from businesses across the region.

A ‘world first’ in healthcare innovation, the next generation mobile cancer care unit will visit communities to offer a wide range of services including accessible daily clinics, cancer screening and education programmes, and a variety of treatments. Building the unit was made possible by a generous grant of £747,764 from global pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS). The grant has been donated to cover the build costs of the next generation unit as well as another unit which will be built to existing specifications.

Local business backing

Along with BMS, a number of other local businesses have given their support across various stages of the project, from build to launch. Bence Coachworks undertook the build of the unit, manufactured at their site in Yate. The unit was unveiled to stakeholders and delegates at a special gala dinner on Friday 5 November at Cheltenham Racecourse, sponsored by Tier One, Think Systems, Bence, the charity’s IT communications provider Eurolink Connect, Ontic, Gloucester Care Providers Association (GCPA), Premiere Kitchens and SoGlos, which chose Hope for Tomorrow as its Charity of the Year in 2020. Think Systems has also pledged to fund the nurse support vehicle for the new mobile cancer care unit for the next four years.

In a unique partnership with the NHS, the unit, named ‘Christine’ in memory of the charity’s founder Christine Mills MBE who died in 2018 from cancer, will for the first time in a mobile setting allow NHS staff to provide life-saving information, such as self-examination guidance from specialist breast care nurses. There are the facilities on board to run a range of patient education and information clinics, meaning that ultimately patients will need to spend significantly less time attending hospital- based appointments. NHS Trusts will be able to offer patients more choice of where their cancer care is delivered with less time spent attending appointments and no compromise in quality or consistency of care.

Embracing digital innovation

The unit includes two hydraulic powered consultation rooms which expand from its sides, with each room fully connected with digital facilities so that patients and staff on board are able to connect remotely to the main hospital if necessary. Being attached to its HGV chassis means the unit is fully mobile and can be moved from location to location with ease.

Patient John Rendell receiving treatment on one of Hope for Tomorrows mobile cancer care unitsCombatting the Covid backlog

Hope for Tomorrow designed and launched their first mobile cancer care unit in 2007 in Cheltenham. Since then, it has continually developed its fleet which grew to 13 units by the beginning of 2021 and the charity now employs 14 people. 12 mobile cancer care units are currently allocated to NHS Trusts, with two units remaining in reserve to ensure no interruptions to service. Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, available reserve units were deployed to support NHS Trusts wherever possible, allowing vital cancer services to continue where they may not otherwise have been able to. Hope for Tomorrow is also providing support with tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic; enabling treatments to take place away from the hospital environment and protecting this vulnerable patient group while helping to reduce the spread of Covid-19. In 2020, the units delivered 24,492 patient treatments.

The units deliver longer-term benefits to the NHS, in the form of a more streamlined Patient Pathway and the additional capacity on hospital sites for more complex treatments, supporting partner NHS Trusts to meet NHS England targets. The new generation mobile unit will eventually work in collaboration across two NHS Trusts, helping them to achieve NHS England’s 62-day cancer target for at least 85% of patients to start a first treatment for cancer within two months (62 days) of an urgent GP referral.

Tina Seymour, CEO of Hope for Tomorrow said: “This unit has been three years in the making and the result is a testament to our relentless commitment in making crucial cancer care more accessible for all. This launch would not be possible without the generosity and contribution from organisations such as BMS, Tier One and Think Systems. Hope for Tomorrow relies entirely on donations to build and maintain our units and BMS provided us with an extremely generous grant which has allowed us to specify and build the next generation unit. Unless you have experienced our units first hand, few will fully comprehend just how much value they bring to patients’ treatments, care and lives, and the support from local companies means we can now take this to the next level. Huge thanks go to everyone involved.

She continued: “The need for more services like this is crystal clear and reflected in the increasing engagement we are seeing with key organisations. A number of outside agencies have also expressed a desire to support patients with services that go beyond healthcare from within the unit. Organisations including Citizens Advice and Be Clear on Cancer are investigating how they can offer services such as financial advice and benefit support via the unit.”

 Find out more about about how your business can support or work with Hope For Tomorrow here

hopefortomorrow.org.uk

 

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