Multi-million pound cancer centre remains on track despite COVID-19

Multi-million pound cancer centre remains on track despite COVID-19 image

Work continues to press ahead on a multi-million pound cancer centre at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle – despite COVID-19.

While the coronavirus pandemic has meant extra health and safety measures have had to be put in place, the programme remains very much on track and is expected to fully open in Autumn 2021.

At present, 90 workers a day are on-site and the development – a partnership between North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle Hospitals – is really starting to take shape.

Most recently, a 120ft self-erecting tower crane travelled from Leicester to lift 86 individual panes of glass in place on the atrium roof.

Procured as part of the Construction Procurement Framework, ProCure 22 (P22), administered by the Department of Health & Social Care, the cancer centre promises to bring ground-breaking expertise and care to patients in West, North and East Cumbria.

The £35 million centre will create a modern state-of-the art environment for staff, patients, carers and their relatives and will house:

  • a chemotherapy day unit with 15 treatment chairs and three single treatment rooms
  • two linear accelerator (LINAC) radiotherapy machines
  • a CT scanner suite
  • consultation, examination rooms, and a small café area
  • multi-purpose rooms for complementary therapies and patient support

Once complete, it will bring all Cumberland Infirmary’s non-surgical oncology services under the same roof again so patients will no longer have to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment in different parts of the hospital.

Chemotherapy will also continue to be delivered at the West Cumberland Hospital’s Henderson suite.

Suzanne Stanley Radiotherapy Service Manager at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“It’s great to see this development literally coming to life before our eyes on the Infirmary site. It’s a fantastic example of team effort from the construction and NHS teams who have refused to allow this pandemic to stop progress and help ensure that we are still looking forwards to providing patient care in the new centre in 2021."

Newcastle’s Directorate Manager for Cancer Services, Phil Powell, said:

“The UK economy has experienced a huge impact since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so it’s great to see that, despite this disruption, the project remains on track and work has continued in line with Government guidance and social distancing measures.
“Overall I think we are about two working weeks behind schedule but the construction team is hopeful that some of this time can be recovered and our ambition remains to open next autumn.”

Some of the materials used on site to date include:

  • 90,000 specially-made interlocking blocks for the walls and ceilings of the linear accelerator bunkers
  • 88,000 bricks in the external walls
  • 1,323 pieces of steel in the building

While North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust will oversee the building of the new centre, once complete it will be run by Newcastle Hospitals as part of the Northern Centre for Cancer Care. Newcastle oncology specialists will work with the existing teams to provide additional resilience to the service.

It will also mean that together the Trusts will be providing one of the biggest combined cancer treatment services in the country.

Lyn Simpson, chief executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust said:

“The partnership working between the two Trusts is something that we are very proud of. Working this way means that we are able to deliver a better service for our patients in north Cumbria; for some patients it will mean that travelling to Newcastle for treatment is no longer required and for all patients the cancer centre will deliver services in a bespoke and first class environment.”

GRAHAM was awarded the contract to design and construct the new cancer centre. Gary Holmes, Regional Managing Director for GRAHAM Building North, said:

“GRAHAM has a strong track record of construction across the healthcare sector and we are delighted to be delivering a project that will have such a positive impact on the local community and to provide some good news during these unprecedented times.
“Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic in recent months, we are thrilled that the project has continued to progress whilst enforcing Government guidance and social distancing.
“After 18 months of designing and preparation, the new centre, once complete, will play a vital role in improving facilities and services available to clinicians, patients and families across the region.”