CANCER treatment can be gruelling both physically and emotionally.

So everything, and anything which can improve the experience makes the world of difference.

Included in that is a comfortable and calm environment. It’s a requirement all staff at Colchester General Hospital can appreciate, particularly those who work in haematology or on the Mary Barron chemotherapy suite.

Macmillan head cancer nurse Bev Pickett knows all too well how busy the current environment can get and how vital it is to make a change.

The hospital sees more than 4,000 cancer patients per year, many of them needing treatment, this means the Mary Barron Suite must care for up to 100 people per day. Bev says with this number set to rise over the next seven years, capacity is just one more challenge we face.

“The chemotherapy suite is in a temporary building right at the edge of the hospital, it’s quite a distance from the entrance and radiotherapy,” she said.

“Logistically for some patients it’s quite a challenge to walk half way around the hospital.

“At Essex County Hospital we had everything on one site and it was quite close together.

“The idea was always trying to maintain that when we moved across to Colchester General Hospital.”

The Mary Barron suite is working to full capacity.

With the plans for the new centre there will be an increased number of chairs for patients to sit on while receiving treatment.

Within haematology there are eight chairs, with a further 15 in the Mary Barron suite. This is expected to rise to a combined total of 32 at the new centre, with three beds.

Bev said: “We need more room to grow in the long term as sadly more patients are being diagnosed and are living with cancer for longer.

“This new centre needs to be future-proof. Within the new area there will also be teenage and young adult chairs, which are being supported by the Tom Bowdidge Foundation.

“It’s also about combining the teams and sharing the knowledge base.

“There will be a good skill mix which is always a benefit.”

The hospital has started to look at education for the nurses and how it can support them in a combined environment.

One of the ways nurses will be able to assist is through a unique Wellness Centre.

There is no firm plan for what will be included here but the project team is looking at how others in the area have delivered such a service.

It’s early days but the trust wants to expand from just having a Macmillan information pod and counselling sessions. A kind donor has already pledged to fund the Wellness Centre. Bev said: “We want the therapy to be reactive to the patients needs as well as having structured services.

“We don’t want to fill it with services which just sit there and have to be booked appointments.

“We want them to be able to meet needs on the day as sometimes people are not feeling well and cannot make their appointment.”

The trust will be working with people who have been through the experience, finding out what relaxation therapies they would like to see introduced.

Ideas put forward include aromatherapy and reflexology although nothing has yet been set in stone.

One thing which is for certain is how much easier patients and their families will find moving around a larger space.

Bev said as a patient at the hospital, it is vital to have the best service possible and to be able to have your family and friends with you for support.

She said: “For me, this is my hospital and my family come here. The hospital has been on a journey of improvement and the impact on chemotherapy and haematology having a bigger department will be huge.

“We are grateful for all the fundraising as without those people who have donated we wouldn’t be anywhere near building the unit - it’s fantastic.”