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South Lakes MP Tim Farron has heralded his meeting with the Secretary of State for Health as ‘a welcome step forward’ in his campaign to bring radiotherapy services to the South Lakes.
Tim’s meeting came after he asked the Prime Minister to step in and back the campaign. Over 2,000 local people recently joined a march to hand over a 12,000 signature petition, jointly organised with the Westmorland Gazette as part of the ‘Shorter Journeys, Longer Lives’ campaign.
The National Radiotherapy Advisory Group has advised that patients should have to travel no more than 45 minutes for radiotherapy treatment. No part of the South Lakes is within 45 minutes of the Royal Preston Hospital, the nearest site of radiotherapy treatment - and some patients face journeys of over two hours each way. Currently patients requiring radiotherapy from anywhere in the South Lakes and Furness peninsula have to make the gruelling journey to the Rosemere unit in Preston - sometimes on a daily basis.
He said: “Meeting the Secretary of State today is another step forward in our campaign. He emphasised that he was supportive of the project and paid tribute to our campaign. Working together as a community we have forced this onto the agenda. The discussion is now about the details over the costings and the business case and not about whether we need radiotherapy services at Westmorland General.
“For patients being treated for cancer, the fact that they have to travel outside of South Lakeland to get treatment is an added burden. Our campaign to win a Radiotherapy Unit for Westmorland General Hospital will allow patients to no longer have to travel debilitating distances and instead be close to friends and family at a time when they most need their support. Having lost my mother to cancer this campaign is incredibly personal to me, but it's also very personal to thousands of other people in our area. I told the Secretary of State today that I will not stop fighting until we open up a radiotherapy centre to go with our new chemotherapy centre.”
Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley further commented: “Tim explained the case for a radiotherapy service at WGH, I completely understand the need for this service; and understand that the hospital trusts and the commissioners are keen to see this happen although their remains issues of affordability. I will give personal attention to this and ask the specialist commissioning group to keep me continuously informed over progress and keep in touch with Tim as we move forward.”
The minister said he fully understands the strength of feeling in favour of their being a radiotherapy unit at Westmorland general Hospital and knows how much affection local people have for their hospital in Kendal.