THOUSANDS of cancer patients have received life saving radiotherapy on their doorstep thanks to a state-of-the-art oncology centre, preventing them having to travel out of county for their care.

Worcestershire patients previously had to travel to Cheltenham, Coventry and Wolverhampton for radiotherapy before the opening of the £22.5 million oncology centre in Worcester nearly three years ago.

Mr Adel Makar, a consultant urological surgeon and cancer leader, was able to extol the benefits of the centre when he addressed a meeting of the health overview and scrutiny committee at County Hall in Worcester on Tuesday although he said there was still much to do such as providing better psychological support for cancer patients and their families.

The Worcestershire Oncology Centre at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester has treated 2,800 patients using radiotherapy since it opened in January 2015.

All of the centre's radiotherapy patients would have had to travel many miles out of county for treatment before the centre opened.

The centre was developed by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust in partnership with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

Mr Makar, lead cancer clinician for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said the centre was now equipped to provide care to around 1,500 radiotherapy patients each year, a 50 per cent increase in patients getting the treatment. The centre is served by a team of 11 oncologists.

There has also been an increase in access to chemotherapy which is provided at all three of Worcestershire hospitals.

For example, 9,180 patients received chemotherapy at the Rowan Suite at Worcester between October 2015 and October 2016. Between October 2016 and October 2017 this increased to 9,754 patients, an increase of 574 patients (6.2 per cent).

Over the same period the Garden Suite in the Alexandra Hospital saw an increase of 632 patients (12 per cent) and the Millbrook Suite in Kidderminster saw an increase of 631 patients (10.6 per cent increase). Across the county there has been a 30 per cent increase in the numbers of chemotherapy patients.

The hospital trust also has an oncologist on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week which has improved patient experience by providing round-the-clock care for those who may experience complications after treatment.

Three multi-disciplinary teams have now been merged into one, Mr Makar told HOSC members with an increasing contribution to clinical trials and research.

However, some of the trust's cancer targets remain in the red. For example, 85 per cent of patients are supposed to wait no more than 62 days for treatment following an urgent GP referral. The figure was 76.58 per cent in August but had slumped to as low as 61.78 per cent in April.

Mr Makar said all specialties were working to address this issue and that there was now far better tracking of patients.

However, the report delivered to HOSC said the overall picture was broadly improving with progress still having to be made.

Key concerns remains endoscopy waiting times and poor diagnostic performance.

Throat cancer survivor Paul Crawford also spoke at HOSC to say a 'big thank you to Worcestershire acute for building the oncology centre'.

Mr Crawford had to travel from his then home in Highfield Close, Droitwich, to Cheltenham for his own radiotherapy treatment and, since he was given the all clear in December 2006, has been a passionate campaigner for better cancer care in Worcestershire and an outspoken supporter of the oncology centre in Worcester.

He travelled up to 3,000 miles for six weeks after he developed throat cancer. He said he would like the centre at Worcester to expand and argued that it was important patients were treated as human beings rather than numbers.

Mr Crawford also wants to see improvements in psychological support for patients and their families.

Mr Makar, responding to Mr Crawford's comments, said there was as yet no tariff for a psychological support service so that the trust could charge commissioners to get payment by results.

However, he expressed a hope such a tariff would be introduced in the next two to three years.

He said: "It's a huge void in our services but we are working on it."