Duchess opens teenager cancer unit in Edinburgh

A £1.35 million unit for young people with cancer has been opened by the Duchess of York.

The new facility, created by the Teenage Cancer Trust in partnership with NHS Lothian, offers patients aged 16 to 24 a place where they can feel at home and meet other youngsters going through a similar experience as they receive treatment.

They will also have access to treatment from a specialist team of nursing and support staff, all experts in teenage and young adult cancer care.

The unit, at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, will treat young cancer patients from the Lothians, Borders, Fife, and Dumfries and Galloway.

The duchess, who is honorary patron of the charity, met with patients at the new unit today before unveiling a plaque to mark its opening.

Professor David Cameron, director of cancer services at NHS Lothian, said: “This unit will make a real difference to the lives of those young people with cancer in the Lothians and beyond.

“Today’s opening is a culmination of hard work and dedication from NHS Lothian, the Teenage Cancer Trust and more importantly the patients who have helped shape the development of the unit.

“The unit will have a positive impact on the lives of young people who are undergoing treatment for cancer by offering the best possible treatment and support in the most appropriate setting.”

A group of young cancer patients worked very closely with the Teenage Cancer Trust and the hospital architects to make sure the unit contains the right elements needed to make young people feel at home.

It is a vibrant and colourful space, decorated in purple, green and blue with eye-catching wall designs featuring the Edinburgh skyline. It has four single patient bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms.

The unit also boasts a large open-plan activity and social room which includes a kitchen and dining area, as well as an area to watch TV, a jukebox and a gaming area.

There is a day care room for outpatient treatment, and a quiet room where young people and their families can spend time. Wi-Fi internet access throughout the unit also allows young patients to keep in touch with friends and family in the outside world.

Bethany Millar-Gourlay, 19, was diagnosed with leukaemia last summer and is one of the first patients to use the new facilities.

She said: “I used to come to the adult ward for treatment and I was the youngest there. Although the other patients were very kind to me I did miss people my own age and having things to do.

“I’m now having my maintenance chemotherapy at this new unit and it is so different. It looks great and there’s a lot to do.”

Teenage Cancer Trust said that around 200 young people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland every year.

It said that without the charity, young people with cancer aged 13 to 24 are treated alongside babies on a children’s ward or older patients on an adult ward.

Dawn Crosby, Teenage Cancer Trust head of service strategy in Scotland, said: “This unit looks amazing but more than that, it will significantly improve young cancer patients’ experience, helping them and their families feel less alone. All of the money has been raised locally in a really difficult financial climate. We want to say a massive thank-you to everyone who has given generously and helped make this happen.”

There are now four Teenage Cancer Trust units in Scotland, at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, for 13 to 16-year-olds; the Western General, Edinburgh, for 16 to 24-year-olds; the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (Yorkhill), Glasgow, for 13 to 16-year-olds; and the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Glasgow, for 16 to 24-year-olds.