WE NEED your help to raise £5million.

That’s the message from the team behind a campaign to build a ground-breaking cancer centre in north Hampshire.

Nine months after The Gazette first revealed how plans were in the pipeline for the centre, the cancer centre campaign has officially been launched.

The centre, which will cost a total of £18million, will make a huge difference to the lives of patients who currently have to endure gruelling 60-mile round trips, over several weeks, to Southampton or Guildford to receive particular cancer treatments.

Merv Rees, clinical director of surgery at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is a driving force behind the cancer centre campaign – and he is hoping that the public will play a key role by helping to raise £5m of the total project cost.

Mr Rees said: “Cancer is something which touches almost every household in some way. It is a lot of money to raise, but I think local people will get behind this. If it is going to work, I believe this must be a centre for the people of north Hampshire by the people of north Hampshire.

"Cancer is something which touches almost every household in some way. This centre is something our team are really passionate about, and we want local people in Basingstoke, Winchester and Andover to get behind the campaign.”

The centre, which should open in around three years, will offer vital treatments such as radiotherapy alongside palliative care and more general support, including hair care, beauty treatments and financial and employment advice.

Most importantly, the centre will reduce the travelling time that patients currently have to endure.

At the moment, patients are often forced to make 60-mile round-trips to Southampton or Guildford to receive daily radiotherapy treatment, given to about four of every 10 cancer patients, for a period of up to six weeks at a time.

A national recommendation that people should not travel for more than 45 minutes to receive radiotherapy is not currently possible for many patients in the trust’s area, but the new cancer centre would mean an end to such long journeys.

The centre – which will be built on the same site as a planned new critical treatment hospital in an area of land encircled by the M3, A303 and A34 – will cost around £18million in total, and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will be responsible for providing £13m of that figure.

Mr Rees said that the foundation trust would not be raising funds through the controversial PFI initiatives but would instead be more likely to finance the scheme through a foundation trust financing facility.

He and other medics behind the scheme are relying on the generosity of the public to raise the remaining £5m.

Mr Rees said: “It is a lot of money that we need to raise but I think people will get behind this.

“If it is going to work, I believe this must be a centre for the people of north Hampshire by the people of north Hampshire.”

Mr Rees hopes donations will gain momentum as the plans move forward and more people realise how the centre will help and treat people.

Dr Lara Alloway, lead clinician North Hampshire palliative care service, and associate medical director at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the centre will be about treating the whole person, not only with the best medical treatment but also by giving them the tools to cope with life post-cancer.

She said: “We want to create an environment which isn’t clinical. We want our patients to feel welcomed, looked after and cared for.”

Mr Rees agreed, adding that the money will be spent not only on building a centre where cancer patients can be treated, but also on creating the right environment for them.

He said: “We want to create a building which people will walk into and say ‘wow’.”

Phase one of the project will see a temporary radiotherapy unit being set up in Basingstoke hospital next year, near The Ark Conference Centre on the site of the existing Donald Burrell Centre.

The temporary unit will be able to treat around 50 per cent of the local population affected by cancer and will be an interim measure until the new cancer centre, opens in 2015-16.

It is hoped that the team will have raised the full £5m required to give the centre the ‘wow factor’ in the next three years – and Mr Rees wants local people to start holding fundraising events as soon as possible.

Mr Rees said: “No matter how big or how small each fundraising event is, it all adds up. It all helps to spread the word and raise money.”

For more information, and to find out how to donate or get involved in fundraising, email admin@arkcancercharity.org.uk or call 01256 360419.