Building work has ground to halt on the new cancer treatment unit at Eastbourne DGH because of a cash crisis.
Work began on the new radiotherapy unit earlier this year and was expected to open by spring 2016 – but the opening has now been delayed by several months due to a lack of funding.
At present, cancer patients in Eastbourne have to travel to Brighton for radiotherapy treatment so the news the DGH would be getting its own linear accelerators for treatment was welcomed as patients would not have to make the journey along the A27 on a daily basis.
While more money for the £15 million unit is expected to be released in the new year, patients’ groups say the delay will impact cancer sufferers and are calling for work to recommence immediately.
Margaret Ticehurst, chair of the Sussex Cancer Partnership Group, said “We were told at a meeting at the beginning of November the unit would open in April 2016, but now they say it won’t be until the summer. If the work doesn’t start again soon it will just go back and back.
“At the moment people from all over Sussex have to travel to Brighton or Maidstone for cancer treatment and many people are not able to make the journey. People have died because they couldn’t get treatment.
“With the aging machines in Brighton breaking down, people are being told to travel to London for treatment.”
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust – which put the initial funding into the project – says building work will begin again in January once a new round of Department of Health funding is released.
The trust says it now expects the centre to open to the public by summer 2016.
A spokeswoman for the trust said, “Work on the Radiotherapy Centre on the Eastbourne site has created the footprint for the installation of the bunker, which will house the planned two new linear accelerators (LINACs), for the treatment of cancer.
“The construction of the concrete base slab is complete, prior to the installation of the precast bunker walls and roof sections.
“The site will now be protected from the weather through the winter. We expect construction to begin again in the new year when the funding is received from the Department of Health.”
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell said the delay is frustrating but has every expectation the work will begin again soon.
She said, “I have spoken to the Trust Development Agency and I have been told the issue is one of paperwork that is likely to be sorted out by January and that there is every expectation the unit will be built.
“It’s frankly very disappointing and frustrating this situation has arisen and there will now be a further delay in the completion of the unit.
“The need for high quality cancer care in East Sussex was made many years ago and everyone is looking forward to the building of a centre of excellence in Eastbourne.
“I will be keeping a very close eye on the situation to ensure that progress is made and work can restart as soon as possible.”
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