IT began as a vision; a modern, highly-equipped facility delivering advanced care to renal and cancer patients, right in the heart of West Berkshire.
Last Thursday, the £4.5m project to fund The Rosemary Centre – due to open next summer – was officially launched.
The event, at the West Berkshire Community Hospital where the new unit will be sited, was attended by NHS directors and consultants, Newbury mayor Julian Swift-Hook, local MP Richard Benyon plus cancer and renal patients who will benefit from early diagnosis, better treatment and shortened journeys.
Newbury and Thatcham Hospital Building Trust (NTHBT) first proposed the renal facility in 2014 and subsequently invited the Newbury and District Cancer Care Trust (NDCCT) to site the proposed cancer unit there too.
The complex will be named The Rosemary Centre in honour of Rosemary Rooke, whose original bequest led to the building of the present community hospital.
The Rosemary Appeal launch aims to engage the public in helping to fund the building and is being run jointly by the NTHBT and the NDCCT.
Building can begin within days because huge amounts have already been raised in donations, pledges and interest-free loans which will need to be repaid through fundraising.
NDCCT chairman David Ball said: “It really has been an extraordinarily long journey and, inevitably, involved lengthy negotiations with the NHS.
“But, however difficult this journey has been, it hardly compares to the journey that cancer patients make.”
He said that initial plans to build the cancer unit could have proved prohibitively expensive if the NDCCT had not been invited to join with the renal unit project.
He heaped praise on the “sheer stubbornness” of colleagues from both trusts without whose vision and determination the dream would never have been realised.
And he added: “Thanks, also, to the Newbury Weekly News, a real community newspaper, for supporting this project.”
Among the unsung heroes behind the venture, who have conceived and driven it from start to final fruition, are Mr Ball, Rob Tayton of the NTHBT, cancer care trust founder and trustee Paul Millard and hospital trust trustees Peter Gubb and Nick Galbraith – many of whom also helped make the entire community hospital a reality.
Lindsey Barker, a renal consultant at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, said: “Right back at the start I came to the trustees to ask if we could look at siting a new dialysis unit here.
“They took up the idea and ran with it and I couldn’t be more delighted with the result.
“The people of Newbury and Thatcham are known for having tremendous community spirit and this project is a testament to that.”
Among the guests was dialysis patient Peggie McCartney who lives in Thatcham but currently makes a three-hour round trip to other hospitals for gruelling sessions three times a week.
She said: “This will change my life.”
Local GP and chairman of the Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Abid Irfan, said: “There’s been a lot of hard work by the NHS organisations and charities leading to this project to get to this stage.
“The charities are continuing to work hard to raise the funds needed to ensure both dialysis and cancer patients can get care closer to home.
“We’re grateful that the charities are supporting this initiative enabling the NHS to offer these services locally.”
He added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to expand access to cancer and dialysis services for the local population and will contribute to the CCG realising one of its ambitions – to develop more services closer to patients’ homes.
“West Berkshire Community Hospital is already the most convenient healthcare facility for people in the Newbury area and this new development will cement its role as a vibrant healthcare facility at the heart of our community.”