Nicola Sturgeon met cancer patients in Aberdeen yesterday as she officially opened the new £13.6million radiotherapy department at the north east’s flagship hospital.
The First Minister said the new facilities at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary were “state of the art” and “wonderful news” for the troubled NHS Grampian.
Some 1,700 courses of treatment a year are already being provided to cancer sufferers from across the north east, Orkney and Shetland, with services also being made available to other health boards.
Ms Sturgeon said: “This state-of-the-art facility is wonderful news for NHS Grampian and the surrounding areas, and will give patients access to the first-class treatment that they deserve.
“The diagnosis of cancer is life changing for patients and their families, and it is therefore crucial that they are given the best possible care that we can provide.”
During her tour of the radiotherapy department the First Minister witnessed the new technology in action.
The hospital’s linear accelerators are used to deliver therapeutic doses of radiation to cancer patients and have in-built imaging capability to help deliver safe and accurate treatment.
The department also provides high-dose rate brachytherapy – where a radiation source is placed close to a tumour site.
It is also home to electronics and mechanical workshops, a dosimetry lab, meeting rooms, office space and a staff welfare facility.
The department was built in two phases, with the first patients treated early last year.
The radiotherapy unit is part of long-term plan to transform the Foresterhill Campus in Aberdeen.
A new cancer centre and women’s hospital on the site have been awarded a total of £120million from the Scottish Government’s national delivery plan programme.
The cancer centre will include outpatient, day care, support, academic and research facilities and is expected to open in 2019.
Ms Sturgeon hailed the radiotherapy unit as the next “phase in the journey” as she unveiled a plaque commemorating the official opening yesterday.
She said: “We know we are going to see more and more people diagnosed and living with cancer due to the fact more of us are living longer.
“That makes it all the more important to make sure the patients get the best possible treatment – and that will give patients the best chance of surviving cancer and going on to live normal lives.
“This unit is very much seen as the next phase in the journey to the cancer centre.”
Ms Sturgeon also addressed ongoing concerns about staff shortages at the hospital, and insisted facilities such the new radiotherapy department will help with recruitment.
She said: “The way the health board can recruit the best staff to work here is by having the best facilities for them to work in.
“It is not an ‘either or’ – we need the best facilities and the best treatment options but we also need the staff that make all of that work.
“The NHS is a big and complex organisation. There will always be challenges in our health service but these challenges should not allow us to forget the good things about our health service, which this new department is an example of.”
The health board has drawn up an action plan to address recruitment challenges, which include the high price of living in Aberdeen and the north-east.