SPORTS presenter Clare Balding OBE will open a new radiotherapy unit in Basingstoke next week.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's Radiotherapy Unit will be based at Basingstoke hospital, in Aldermaston Road.

The new purpose-built facility will be opened on May 13, and will be a big boost for patients diagnosed with cancer in the north of the county.

A six-week programme of radiotherapy treatment can mean having to visit hospital for treatment around 15 times for breast cancer or as many as 37 times for prostate cancer.

For patients in Basingstoke and the north of Hampshire, that has meant travelling to hospitals in Southampton or Guildford to receive those treatments, adding the stress of travel and parking when they are already feeling unwell and vulnerable.

But now the new facility will bring the vital treatment closer to home. The unit is being opened while work continues on making plans for a £13.5million state-of-the-art cancer centre a reality.

The centre will be built in a location yet to be confirmed, but is thought it will be in the area of land encircled by the A303, A34 and M3.

The centre, which should open in 2016, will offer radiotherapy and chemotherapy alongside palliative care and more general support, including hair care, beauty treatments and financial and employment advice.

The radiotherapy facility at Basingstoke hospital will be able to treat around 50 per cent of the local population affected by cancer, and will remain operational until the new north Hampshire cancer centre opens, and equipment is transferred between the sites. The Basingstoke site will then be transformed, though hospital bosses have not yet made a decision about what facilities will be offered there.

Key funding for the new unit has been raised by RadCan and the North Hampshire Medical Fund.

Ms Balding will be joined by the Mayors of Basingstoke and Test Valley at the grand opening. The 43-year-old broadcaster is originally from Kingsclere, where her family owns and runs top horse-riding stables.