Sarah, Duchess of York and world snooker players Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski, have officially opened at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre (BHOC) the first specialist Teenage Cancer Trust unit in the UK’s South West for local young people with cancer.

Sarah Ferguson helps open first specialist Teenage Cancer Trust unit in the South West
Sarah Ferguson helps open first specialist Teenage Cancer Trust unit in the South West

Each year, over 200 young people from Bristol, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall, are diagnosed with cancer. Across the UK, seven are diagnosed every day. Traditionally treated either on a children’s ward or on an adult ward often alongside elderly patients, young people can feel extremely isolated during treatment, some never meeting another young person with cancer. Being treated alongside others their own age, by experts in teenage and young adult cancer care, can make a huge difference to their experience.

Thanks to fundraising support from local communities, a volunteer committee chaired by Lady Wills, Trust funding from The Garfield Weston Foundation and the John James Bristol Foundation and generous help from corporate partners Home Retail Group, The Football Association, MandM Direct and Societe Generale, Teenage Cancer Trust raised £2.5million to open this new eight bed unit. Named Area 61 by the patients and taking ten months to build, the state-of-the-art unit offers 16 to 24 year olds a place to receive treatment where they can feel at home.

Long term patron of Teenage Cancer Trust, Sarah, Duchess of York, opened the unit and said: “Teenage Cancer Trust is the most incredible charity, helping young people stay teenagers first, cancer patients second. I’ve been a patron for over 20 years and I’ve seen it grow and lead the way in the treatment of teenage and young adult cancer. This new unit will help so many local young people and their families and friends.”

The unit also gives young people the best possible care, support and access to treatment via a team of specialist doctors, nurses and youth support staff who are all experts in teenage and young adult cancer care. Teenage Cancer Trust funds the lead nurse and youth support coordinator roles within this team. The youth support coordinator helps young people share their experiences and fears with each other, encourages them to socialise by arranging activities and outings and enables them to participate in a peer support group.

Area 61 has two floors, with one floor dedicated to in-patients with five en-suite bedrooms with sofa beds for family and friends to stay overnight. It also has a large social area where young people can play pool, listen to music, play games consoles or watch films on the latest Smart TVs. There’s also a kitchen and dining space where meals can be cooked at all times of day and night, as well as a lounge for family members to take a break. The other floor is for day patients, featuring three treatment pods, two consulting rooms, a procedure room, a social space which includes entertainment and gaming consoles and a waiting area with cafe.

A group of young people with cancer were involved in the overall design of the unit and worked with local street artist Dave Bain to develop the wall art. James Lusher, the architect also consulted young people on the furniture designs and colours.

Teenage Cancer Trust ambassadors Jack Lisowski from Cheltenham and Judd Trump, from Bristol, also helped officially open the unit and have been supporting the local fundraising appeal. It’s a cause close to their hearts as at 16 Jack was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Jack said: “It’s a fantastic moment to be here today and the unit is so much better than we could have ever imagined. Teenage Cancer Trust is an amazing organisation and I only wish I had benefitted from being treated here.”

Siobhan Dunn, Chief Executive of Teenage Cancer Trust said: “This is an incredibly exciting moment in Teenage Cancer Trust’s history as it’s our first specialist unit in the South West. It’s a remarkable facility and we are very much hoping that local communities and businesses will continue supporting our work here as we need to raise a £1,000 a day to maintain the unit, fund specialist staff and continue our free cancer awareness sessions in schools across the region.”

Jamie Cargill, Teenage Cancer Trust Lead Nurse at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) comments about today’s milestone: “It is taken a significant team effort to get to this point and credit must be given to all those who have been involved. Even after just a few months we can already see how the new facilities are benefiting our patients and their families. By helping us build this amazing unit, our local and regional supporters have done something very special for young people with cancer and I hope they feel as proud of the unit as we all do.”

Dr Alison Cameron, Macmillan Teenage and Young Adults Lead Clinician at UH Bristol, said: "Over the past five years UH Bristol has built a team to care for and support teenage and young adult patients with cancer across the South West. The opening of this unit enables that team to maximise the support they give to patients and their families, whilst providing patients with as “normal”, least hospitalised, physical space as possible. This helps to reduce the impact of the cancer on the patient."

The unit opening marks the final phase in a multi-million pound investment the charity has made in young people’s cancer services across the South West. In December 2012, Teenage Cancer Trust lent its design expertise to enhance a brand new hospital ward at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for 11 to 16 year olds with a variety of complex health issues including cancer. The charity has also adopted five teenage and young adult specialist nurses who operate from various shared care hospitals across the South West. By doing so, this provides an excellent model of care for 15-24 year olds no matter where they live in the region.

Teenage Cancer Trust is now appealing to local communities to continue supporting its work with young people with cancer. The charity relies on donations and a £1,000 a day needs to be raised to maintain the new unit, fund specialist staff and support the free cancer awareness sessions that are delivered in schools, colleges and universities across the South West.

Find out more here.

Source: Teenage Cancer Trust

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