New 'symbol of hope' cancer care centre to be built at Northampton General Hospital

Architect drawings show what the centre in Northampton could look like if it is given the green light by the Guildhall planning department.
Architect drawings show what the centre in Northampton could look like if it is given the green light by the Guildhall planning department.

Plans have been submitted to build a cancer care centre to provide free practical, emotional and social support to cancer sufferers and their family and friends.

If plans are successful the 'Maggie's Centre', named after Maggie Keswick Jencks, will be built on Northampton General Hospital land, just off Cliftonville.

An existing Maggie Centre in Larnarkshire.

An existing Maggie Centre in Larnarkshire.

Twenty-six years ago Mrs Jencks joined an advanced chemotherapy trial, after living with cancer for two years, and during her last 18 months she and her husband worked with her medical team to develop a new approach to cancer care. Maggie’s Centres are built around the belief that people should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”.

Since the first Maggie Centre opened in Edinburgh in 1996 - 20 more have opened in the UK and overseas.

Dr Sonia Swart, chief executive at Northampton General Hospital, said “We are pleased and excited at the prospect of hosting a Maggie’s Centre here at NGH.

"A hospital with a Maggie’s Centre is a hospital that sets out to value above all else the common humanity we share and the way patients, staff and family feel about their shared experiences of cancer and cancer treatment.

Plans say that Maggies Northampton is derived from the concept of an umbrella in the form of a large canopy that floats above the ground,

Plans say that Maggies Northampton is derived from the concept of an umbrella in the form of a large canopy that floats above the ground,

"It is a symbol of hope for those living with and beyond cancer and those affected by it and would be a fantastic asset for Northamptonshire."

The centres are places to find practical advice about benefits and eating well and where qualified experts provide emotional support.

They have also been places to meet other people or have offered a cancer sufferers an area to simply sit quietly with a cup of tea.

Dr Sonia Swart added: “As more and more families are touched by cancer and as more and more complex treatments are available many people are faced with confusing choices. The range of emotions and practical problems often loom as large as the actual cancer treatments themselves.

"The holistic healing environment and services provided at a Maggie’s Centre offers a chance for patients and their families to connect with what matters most to them in a way that allows them to value and enjoy each day of the life they have, whether it is a shorter or longer one.

"People who treat cancer also need the chance to reflect and reconnect with the privilege of healthcare whilst they continue to work in a pressurised environment that risks squeezing the compassion out of them. Maggie’s Centres offer a new kind of hope for cancer patients and for the people treating them.”

Plans show that the centre will include a library, four counselling rooms a courtyard, a roof terrace and an office for professional staff on hand to offer the support people need.

Alastair Munro, professor of Radiation Oncology, was quoted in the plans saying: “As oncologists, we would like to provide total support for our patients but we have to recognise that for them, we are part of the problem.

"We are prescribing treatments that are producing side effects, we are setting the schedules that govern their lives; we are contributing to their sense of powerlessness.

"Maggie’s Centres offer a solution to our mutual dilemma; information and support that is unconditional and non-institutional and, therefore, all the more powerful and effective.”