Work is underway to create a permanent unit for cancer patients who become unwell during their treatment.
The cancer acute assessment unit (CAAU) helps to keep cancer patients who are vulnerable to infection away from busy emergency departments and means they are supported by specialist staff, should they have side effects from chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
It will be located on the 7th floor in St Bartholomew’s Hospital’s modern KGV building.
A temporary CAAU was established at the start of the pandemic on the 5th floor of KGV, following concerns that cancer patients would catch Covid-19, which was in circulation in the community.
Construction has now begun on a multi-million pound project which will secure a permanent home for this important service.
Moving the CAAU to the 7th floor means we can extend the chemotherapy suite on the 5th floor, creating a number of extra beds and minimising any delays for those waiting for treatment.
The plans have been developed in partnership with cancer patients from across our local area who have used the service and been delighted with the dedicated support on offer.
Leandra O’Sullivan was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer in March 2019.
The 45 year-old from east London (pictured centre) has received treatment including radiotherapy and chemotherapy at St Bartholomew’s and has been involved in the design of the new unit.
She said: "Having a cancer diagnosis can be complicated - a low immune system can cause other illnesses including colds and viruses, vomiting and diarrhoea and even a risk of sepsis. When I was unwell, I would visit my local the emergency department, and whilst the teams there work extremely hard, they didn’t know me and my treatment plan.
"Nowadays, I am able to communicate directly with the chemo team at Barts. They assess me as a cancer patient, advising and caring for me in the right way. This security takes away some of the anxiety and fear we feel with a cancer diagnosis. And it’s really nice to get to know the team looking after me on a regular basis.
"With the 24 hour telephone helpline for everyone on cancer treatment, I feel confident to phone them directly for absolutely anything, no matter how big or small. They are tremendously reassuring.
"The new unit also has lots of natural light which is more welcoming and calming, making the atmosphere feel less clinical and congested. This relaxed environment is such an important development for cancer patients."
Image: Leandra is joined by senior nurse Sarah Pearson (right) and senior sister Marlene Lopes (left)