£3m funding to transform Ulster Hospital's cancer unit
Plans have been unveiled for a £3m investment in cancer services at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support are working in partnership to improve chemotherapy services for patients, their relatives and carers, making it easier for people to access the treatment and support they need.
Macmillan is providing £2.5m in funding for the project, which will feature a state-of-the-art chemotherapy unit with purpose-built assessment and treatment areas, a satellite pharmacy and a Macmillan information and support centre.
Paula Kealey, strategic partnership manager for Macmillan in Northern Ireland, said the investment would make a substantial difference.
"As demand for cancer services continues to grow, it's important that people living with cancer have access to services that meet their individual needs and support them to live life as fully as they can," she said.
"The environment in which we're treated can have a significant impact on our outcomes, as well as our experiences.
"That's why it's important to create welcoming spaces that support comfort, dignity and wellbeing.
"By improving the cancer care environment and bringing together invaluable support services, we are helping people to access the high-quality, person-centred care that's right for them."
Bangor cancer survivor Melanie Kennedy is among those welcoming the announcement.
Ms Kennedy (41), founder of the NI Cancer Advocacy Movement, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and told she had five years to live.
Following treatment, last August she announced that liver tests had shown her to be free of the disease.
The mum-of-two used the chemotherapy services at the Ulster Hospital for over six years and said she is "so excited" for the new unit.
"A comfortable, welcoming environment that feels much less clinical will be so good for patients' wellbeing and the surroundings will now match the quality of the care from the wonderful staff," she added.
Ulster Unionist health spokesperson Roy Beggs said the major investment could not come soon enough.
"Our cancer services locally have never before been under as much strain and pressure," he said.
"Unfortunately our cancer treatment times are still far below acceptable standards, so I hope that this new service will make it much easier for a greater number of patients to receive the right treatment and at the right time."
The new services will be developed on the site of the existing care of the elderly building, close to the hospital's main entrance.
Contractors will be appointed this summer and it is expected that the development will be fully operational by the end of summer 2020.