BEING diagnosed with cancer can be the most devastating news for a patient and their family.
It can leave people feeling stranded and isolated, with no idea what to do when it comes to their job, supporting their children and making the most of their future.
But the launch of a new multi-million pound specialist centre for cancer patients in Hampshire is about to ensure that no one has to go through their battle alone.
Maggie's centres offer a variety of support from counselling to nutrition and financial advice
Today the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal that charity Maggie’s plans to build a new £5m hub at Southampton General Hospital – providing cancer patients with all the vital lifelines they need for free.
From one-to-one counselling sessions with a psychologist, to relaxation therapy and financial help – the centre provides a full range of services, offering everything but medical treatment, which is left to the doctors.
It will also give patients and their relatives an uplifting haven to escape to, being able to leave behind the cold, clinical atmosphere of the hospital wards.
Although the centre is still in the early stages of development, the aim is to welcome its first patients in 2018.
There will be around six staff on the payroll, including a head of centre and psychologist, plus an army of volunteers supporting their work.
Grant Robson, campaign manager for Southampton, said Maggie’s wanted to address a gap in the market for this type of service in the south.
He said: “For people in Southampton and beyond there is nothing there like Maggie’s and it makes sense for the hospital to look to someone like us to bring a centre to the site.
“The hospital’s cancer network extends into Salisbury, West Sussex, the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands and Dorset so people are travelling a long way, which makes the need even greater for a welcoming, spirit lifting environment as hospitals can be unfamiliar and scary places.”
Centres are designed around comfort to put users at ease and there is no reception desk or offices to ensure people feel equal when they walk in.
Maggie's centres are designed to be bright and comfortable
Instead, a kitchen table is always the focus of the centre so service users can come in and make a cup of tea and interact with staff, volunteers and other patients as much as they are happy to.
Mr Robson added: “One of the questions we get asked the most is why the NHS does not do this.
“They do try to in some places but if it came from the NHS the clinical side of things would come through and you would not get that homely feeling that we are trying to create.
“Centres have a clinical background so there is informed knowledge and the programme of support offered here is through working with the NHS in an integrated partnership.”
On average, centres deal with around 80 people per day but some have welcomed up to 140.
Exercise classes are one of the services Maggie's provides
A Southampton centre has been in the works for the past year but the project is now set to motor ahead with planning permission expected to be submitted before the end of the year.
The charity needs to raise £5m to cover capital costs as well as running the centre for the first two years and it is currently setting up a board to oversee a fund-raising campaign.
Around £1.5m has already been raised through the private sector but Maggie’s expects to launch a public fundraising drive later this year or at the beginning of 2015.