Training on equipment at cross-border Radiotherapy Unit starts

Radiographers have begun training on state-of-the-art £multi-million new cancer equipment at Altnagelvin’s Radiotherapy Centre.

The new equipment will ensure that around 1,500 cancer patients from both sides of the border can get treatment locally at the new £66m facility in Derry every year.

Therapy Radiographers receving training on the new equipment.

Therapy Radiographers receving training on the new equipment.

The Western Trust’s Therapy Radiographers have been training this week on the software used to run the Varian Truebeam Linear Accelerators.

The £multi-million pound machines demonstrate some of the latest technology currently available in the treatment of cancer.

The Therapy Radiographers spent the week familiarising themselves with the various functions and capabilities of the machines.

They also gained a greater insight into the IT system which is used to support them.

Annemarie Lynch, Therapeutic Radiographer Team Leader, said: “This week members of the Therapeutic Radiography team took part in a training programme on our Truebeam Linear Accelerators which were delivered by Varian.

“This equipment is some of the most advanced technology available for the treatment of cancer. The Radiotherapy Centre here at Altnagelvin has three Linear Accelerators which will allow us to treat approximately 1,500 patients per year.

“The treatment machines can rotate around the patient and deliver the planned treatment to the targeted tumour.

“The lighting in our rooms can also be altered to enhance our patients’ comfort.

“This inhouse training allowed the team to see first hand all of the capabilities and functions of the treatment machines, and the software which will be used to support them.

“The team had the opportunity to test the software by creating a treatment plan for a test patient. “We ran through every process involved in the treatment of a real patient. We ran this process from beginning to end, making use of the advanced imaging capabilities our machines allow us to use.”

She added: “Therapy radiographers in conjunction with our clinicians and our physics colleagues continue to move forward in the development of the service, bringing us closer to our opening in late Autumn.”

Approval for the new Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin was given back in May 2014 at a capital cost of £66.1m, which includes a 19m euro contribution from the government in the Republic.

The cross-border unit will mean that patients from Derry and the wider western half of Northern Ireland will no longer have to travel to Belfast for radiotherapy treatment.

It will also mean that cancer patients from Donegal who need radiotherapy will no longer have to travel the long distance to Galway or Dublin.

There had been some concerns expressed by groups lobbying for better cancer services in the north west that the Brexit vote in the UK may impact on the much-anticipated new facility in Derry.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust and Social Care Trust however confirmed to the Journal last month: “Brexit will have no impact on the construction and opening of this facility.”

To find out more about the Radiotherapy Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, visit the Western Trust’s Website, www.westerntrust.hscni.net.

To see a video of the staff training on the equipment go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9858r6NdTo.