A DEDICATED cancer information and support centre could open its doors in Southampton as early as next spring.

Centre manager Jac Broomfield believes the facility could be up and running within a year if fundraising goes to plan.

Macmillan Cancer Relief needs to raise £1m to fund the centre, which will be built at Southampton General Hospital.

Thousands of pounds are already pouring in for the Daily Echo backed appeal and numerous fundraising events are being lined up across the county.

The drop-in centre will provide information as well as psychological, emotional and practical support for anyone affected by cancer. Friends and family members will be as welcome as patients themselves.

Although based in Southampton, the centre will be open to people from across the region including the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and the Channel Islands.

Jac, a qualified nurse who has been in charge of the project for the past two years, said: "This will be a really important facility for the local community, and also the transient population who come into Southampton.

"It will provide a quality service, making it much easier for people to get information from a centralised place.

"The whole ambience of the centre will be very different from a clinical environment. We will be guiding people in the right direction for whatever support they want.

"We want people to know they can just drop in. They can just come and sit down and have a cup of tea; they will not be harassed."

Jac said the consultation process had shown a clear need for the centre, with an estimated 3,000 people likely to use it in its first year alone.

"What shone through beacon bright was that people wanted to be heard and have someone to talk to," she said. "Everything will be completely individualised. There will be no pressure on anyone to do anything; they can just come in for a chat or sit in the garden for some space."

Jac is hoping the centre could be welcoming its first customers early next year. "It should be a fairly quick build because of the way it is fitting in with the hospital.

"If the fundraising rolls in quickly, we are hoping it could be open as soon as springtime next year."

When built, the centre will be in complete contrast to the stark wards and cold hospital corridors so often associated with cancer care.

For information on how you can help the fundraising appeal, contact Macmillan Cancer Relief on 023 8023 6367.

Anyone interested in volunteering at the centre should call Kim Sutton on 023 8079 6062.