Cancer patients given Hope for Tomorrow after mobile chemotherapy launched to the East Kent Hospitals Trust
A mobile chemotherapy unit will hit the road in Kent for the first time, providing cancer treatment closer to the homes of thousands of patients.
The £260,000 bus was donated to the east Kent hospitals trust by the national Hope for Tomorrow charity.
It will travel to Whitstable, Hythe, Dover and Sittingbourne, preventing sick people from having to travel dozens of miles to their nearest hospital.
Michael Keating and Peter Laker open the new unit
The bus has been named after television presenter and Gloria Hunniford's daughter Caron Keating, who lost her battle with breast cancer nine years ago.
It was launched at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Kent County Cricket Ground in Canterbury, performed by Caron's brother Michael Keating and cancer patient Peter Laker.
Michael described the tribute to his sister as "an honour".
He said: "We're wonderfully proud about it and we think Caron would be too.
"Although Caron's story didn't end happily, the treatments nowadays are so much more advanced. We hope this unit will save so many lives.
"What's brilliant about the unit is that it goes out into the communities. There's always people who may not have a support network or transportation, and they can't afford taxis.
Launch of mobile chemotherapy unit, which will travel to patients around east Kent. Christine Mills with Global Charity Director ICAP, Nikki Studtt
"They're spending long periods of time in a car to go for their treatment, and they're feeling ghastly afterwards.
"Then having to take the journey back home afterwards is a bit torturous. This will take the treatment to the heart of the community."
Gloria Hunniford, who lives in Sevenoaks, added: "I love the name Hope for Tomorrow. During her seven years of battling cancer, my courageous daughter Caron lived by the positivity of hope.
"It is such a privilege that this unit is to be named after Caron and I know how proud she would be that this invaluable work is being carried out."
The new bus is one of five currently on the road in the UK, all donated by Hope for Tomorrow, and each named after women who have been touched by cancer.
The charity was set up by Christine Mills after she lost her husband to cancer in 2003.
Christine said: "One of the many stresses with chemotherapy is the travelling. That's what I found when I was a carer for my husband.
The launch of the mobile chemotherapy unit
"For patients to be able to get treatment closer to home and get on and off the unit very quickly will mean a lot.
"I hope it will help a lot of patients in Kent and save them many many miles of travel."
Cancer patient Peter Laker, from Chartham near Canterbury, said the unit would provide a lifeline to people in their darkest hour.
He said: "Cancer diagnosis comes like a bolt out of the blue, and chemotherapy hits you hard. It makes you feel down and depressed.
"I started my treatment during one of the worst winters, when we had eight inches of snow. This unit will benefit people who can't get to hospital for treatment."
"It is such a privilege that this unit is to be named after Caron and I know how proud she would be that this invaluable work is being carried out" - Gloria Hunniford
Hospitals in east Kent currently provide 1,000 chemotherapy treatments to patients every month.
The mobile unit will be run by hospital staff, and is capable of treating up to four patients at a time.
It will be based at Kent and Canterbury Hospital for the next month while staff undergo training, before branching out to Hythe, where it will set up outside the town swimming pool, and the B&Q car park in Dover.
The trust is also looking for suitable locations in Whitstable and Sittingbourne.
- Click here for more Canterbury news
- Click here for more news from across the county