FORCE funds chemo service in Okehampton

Cancer patients in West Devon are to be offered chemotherapy treatment in Okehampton for the first time, thanks to funding from FORCE Cancer Charity.

The service will be available every Wednesday between 10am and 4pm at Okehampton Hospital from February 21.

FORCE already offers regular support and information sessions at Castle Ham Lodge in Okehampton and has set aside money from a legacy to pay for this new and important weekly service in the town.

The money is funding specialist nurses from the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital to administer some of the more straightforward treatments to patients, saving them the journey to Wonford whenever possible.

A grant of £9,000 from the Exeter Foundation has also enabled FORCE to buy a new van for the secure transport of drugs.

Positive feedback

The charity began funding a pilot outreach chemotherapy project at Tiverton Hospital in July. The feedback from patients and nursing staff has been so positive that it is being rolled out as quickly as possible in Okehampton.

It is hoped that the service will also be offered at a third location in East Devon later this year.

The benefits to patients include:

  • Treatment closer to home so less travelling time and expense
  • Easier parking
  • Quieter location and treatment area
  • Reduced waiting time for treatment, both in Okehampton and Exeter
  • Experienced oncology staff from the hospital to deliver treatment
  • Access to additional FORCE services to support you and your family

Not all cancer patients will be eligible to receive chemotherapy treatments outside the RD&E’s main acute hospital site at Wonford. Consultants and chemotherapy nurses will discuss with patients and families whether they are suitable for community-based treatment.

Improved access

The charity is spending £160,000 on three years of funding for two full-time chemotherapy nurses, who will work in Exeter two days a week and eventually in FORCE’s outreach locations for the remaining three.

FORCE Chief Executive Meriel Fishwick said: “It’s very exciting to be involved in a project that improves access to cancer support and treatment. We have already discovered in Tiverton that the benefits of support and treatment close to home have a positive impact on people’s quality of life.”

FORCE has worked closely with the RD&E to make the new chemotherapy services more widely available.

Tina Grose, Lead Cancer Nurse at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are delighted to continue working with FORCE to develop the outreach chemotherapy programme. The feedback from the service at Tiverton has been overwhelmingly positive, not only from patients but also from staff. The plans to open in Okehampton will further develop this patient-focused initiative, building on the positive impact for patients’ wellbeing at a difficult time.”

Key element

FORCE had already designated nearly £500,000 to improve accessibility to its services by taking them into the community.

As part of this key element of a strategic plan to ensure that more people in the county receive the best available treatment and support as close to home as possible, it began outreach services in Okehampton in June 2014.

Each Wednesday a team of professional staff and volunteers provides support and counselling, complementary therapies and information at Castle Ham.

  •  Our picture shows Exeter Foundation Trustee Keiron Northcott handing over the keys to the new FORCE outreach chemotherapy van to the charity’s Chief Finance Officer Julia Pitts. The Foundation gave a grant of £9,000 towards the cost of the vehicle. Mr Northcott, who is also Deputy Chief Executive at the Exeter Chiefs, said: “The van is another example of the Foundation supporting the local community and we’re very pleased to do so. The charity has some real momentum and it’s good to see them doing so much great work in our community.” Mrs Pitts added: “We are very grateful to the Exeter Foundation for making such a generous contribution towards the cost of a second vehicle which will enable chemotherapy to be delivered in FORCE@ locations. We have already received amazing feedback form patients who have benefited from having treatment closer to home so we know that this service will make a huge difference.” Also pictured is FORCE Community Fundraiser Naomi Cole.

More volunteers needed

FORCE is looking for more volunteers to join the team in Okehampton. There are opportunities to help with the new chemotherapy service at the hospital on Cavell Way or at Castle Ham Lodge. Regular volunteer Karen Taylor finds it hugely rewarding. “Everyone is very kind, very friendly, it’s a beautiful environment and there’s a lot of knowledge here. I’ve learnt a lot and hopefully helped other people feel a bit happier on a daily basis,” she said. If you would like to become a FORCE@Okehampton volunteer, please contact Naomi Snook on 01392 406154 or via email –