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Cutting-edge lung cancer treatment to be available in Swansea for the first time

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A highly specialised lung cancer treatment offering huge benefits to suitable patients will be launched at Swansea Bay’s Singleton Hospital this spring.

The hospital is home to the South West Wales Cancer Centre, which has already pioneered a series of cutting-edge approaches to treatments.

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Now, for the first time, it will be able to offer Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy, or SABR.
This is a specialist technique to cure early lung tumours, and is more effective than standard radiotherapy for early stage lung cancers.

Suitable patients from the Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda health board areas previously had to travel to Velindre Hospital in Cardiff for it.

Now, thanks to ongoing investment in high-tech equipment and funding from the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC), the first patients from the region are expected to undergo SABR at Singleton within the next few months.

Dr Ceri Powell, consultant clinical oncologist treating patients with lung cancer across South Wales, said: “The precision and accuracy of the SABR technique allows a safer lower dose to be delivered to normal tissue surrounding the tumour.

“This means potentially curative treatment can be offered to some patients who otherwise would not be able to have treatment for their lung cancer due to their other medical illnesses.

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“For other patients it gives a better chance of curing their cancer with fewer side effects than conventional radiotherapy.”

As well as avoiding the need for much longer journeys to Cardiff, the availability of SABR means the number of radiotherapy sessions for suitable patients will be between just three and eight, rather than the 20 using conventional radiotherapy.

Dr Ryan Lewis (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Dr Ryan Lewis, Swansea Bay’s Head of Radiotherapy Physics said: “SABR has been around for around 10 years but up until very recently it has only been done in relatively few centres in the UK.

“It’s a very specialised service previously seeing a very small number of patients a year, probably fewer than 200 in the UK.”

Before most cancer surgery was paused across the UK at the start of the pandemic, a technology review concluded it would be possible to extend SABR to more centres across the country.

Dr Lewis said the review found the outcome for patients using SABR was as good as for those who had undergone surgery, but was less invasive and with a quicker recovery time.

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Singleton Hospital was already able to offer many other forms of highly specialised cancer treatments, following multi-million pound investments in equipment, software and staff expertise over the last five years.

Last year, for example, it became the UK leader in the use of Intensity-Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT).

For the majority of cancers this is considered the best and most effective form of modern radiotherapy available.

It directs a higher dose of radiation more closely at the tumour while simultaneously sparing surrounding tissue.

The South West Wales Cancer Centre has also trialled and implemented a revolutionary new approach to treating breast cancer, reducing the treatment from 15 days to just five.

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Dr Lewis said the Cancer Centre had worked closely with WHSSC, once it had identified Singleton Hospital as a centre that could deliver the new SABR service, and with Velindre Hospital as a mentoring partner to ensure it met the necessary quality standards.

He said: “It’s a more technically advanced version of everything we were already doing effectively.

“SABR involves much bigger doses, much faster, and you have to be much more careful when you’re using it.”

Dr Lewis said that, because SABR is so specialised, he anticipated between 25 and 30 patients a year would receive it at Singleton.

“We could not have done this without some of the new infrastructure we’ve had, the new machines, some of the new techniques,” he added.

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Dr Ceri Powell and Dr Russell Banner (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Dr Russell Banner, South West Wales Cancer Centre Radiotherapy Clinical Lead, said: “With the introduction of SABR, we can justifiably claim to be a fully capable, highly specialised radiotherapy centre making the latest state-of-the-art techniques available to the population of South West Wales.”

Dr Powell added: “We anticipate that offering SABR treatment in Swansea will improve outcomes by allowing even greater access to this well-tolerated curative treatment closer to patients’ homes, providing equity of access across South Wales.”

Lead image: L-r: Punya Nair, SABR lead radiographer; Nia O’Rourke, imaging specialist radiographer; Russell Banner, consultant clinical oncologist; Rebecca Hunter, Ct SABR lead radiographer; Adam Selby, clinical scientist; Elizabeth Hawkes, deputy radiotherapy service manager (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Morriston

New regional centre at Morriston Hospital to treat lung conditions given go-ahead

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photo of doctor holding x ray result

Plans for a new multi-million pound Adult Thoracic Surgical Centre for South Wales can go ahead at pace following a major boost from Welsh Government.

The new centre, to be based at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, will treat lung cancer patients and others who need surgery for a range of chest conditions.

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It will be able to operate on an increased number of patients, potentially upwards of 20% more, and will be the third largest centre in the UK.

Following extensive public consultation in 2018, it was agreed that the new centre will provide a single service for South Wales for residents living in the Swansea Bay; Hywel Dda, Cwm Taf Morgannwg; Aneurin Bevan, Powys and Cardiff and Vale Health Board areas. The centre is expected to be open within the next three to five years.

Patients will be treated as much as possible within their local health board area, only having to travel to the Morriston centre for pre-admission assessment and the surgery itself.

The endorsement of the proposal by the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan will enable the next key stage – the development of detailed plans – to now get underway.

Siân Harrop-Griffiths, Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Director of Strategy and project lead, said: “Developing this scheme and getting the agreement of all the clinicians and organisations across South Wales has been time consuming and complex.

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“But we are delighted that this endorsement by the Minister means we can now take this work forward at pace to provide better thoracic surgical services for everyone across South Wales.”

Malgorzata Kornaszewska, Consultant Thoracic Surgeon at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Clinical Lead for the South Wales Adult Thoracic Surgical Services Programme said: “The new centre will be a centre of excellence with access to modern technology, and will be able to offer a comprehensive, modern, timely and high standard service to our patients.

“It will also create an excellent opportunity for teaching, training and research. This is an exciting time for the thoracic teams and Welsh thoracic patients.”

The South Wales Adult Thoracic Surgery Centre will standardise the delivery of these services across South Wales, improving the long-term sustainability of the service.

Having the specialist service in one dedicated centre will improve equity of access and patients’ experiences, and most importantly provide better health outcomes.

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The single site thoracic surgery centre will be designed in line with best practice and the recommendations of various reviews and consultation processes.

As a centre of excellence, it will provide dedicated thoracic surgery to meet national standards, enabling sub-specialisation of surgeons, which in turn will enable a higher standard of complex surgical procedures to be performed.

All health boards in South Wales, led by Swansea Bay UHB, have worked together alongside the Welsh Ambulances Services Trust and community health councils to develop and agree a plan to develop this new unit at Morriston Hospital.

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Morriston

Carpenter still at work after nearly slicing off his fingers says thanks to Morriston Hospital

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A retired carpenter who almost sliced off his fingers is still crafting away in his workshop thanks to the skill of Morriston Hospital staff.

Colin Taylor was working on turning a piece of wood into a teapot-shaped plant potholder when his wood cutter slipped and went into his hand.

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But despite slicing two fingers through to the bone, he is not just busy in his garden workshop but has also rediscovered his artistic skills as a way of thanking hospital staff.

The 73-year-old said: “I had put the wood in a vice and started shaping it with an electric cutter. I had a new blade which was able to cut everything including metal.

“It had gone well, when I had an itch on my nose and went to scratch it. I took my hand off the cutter and it cut across the timber and across my hand.

“There was blood spurting up in the air. I knocked the cutter off immediately, and my wife called my daughter who is a good first aider. She came up and my fingers were hanging off. I’d damaged them all, but particularly my middle and index finger, and had severed two tendons.

“My daughter took me to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr but they contacted Morriston Hospital who told me to come down straight away.

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“From the moment I went in it must have been the best treatment in my life. The people were so nice and courteous. I was seen to first by a young lady who cleaned me up, and then the doctor came and took a look at it and said I’d have to have an operation.

“They injected my finger and the operation didn’t take too long, and I went home and my left hand was in a plaster for in six weeks. The surgeon fixed the tendons.

“It is not 100%, but it is what it is. I have got to get on with it. It’s a bit stiff in the morning and I can’t bend my middle or index finger like I used to.”

The grandfather of three has since produced a couple of paintings which he has presented to staff at Morriston Hospital by way of thanks.

He added: “I did some painting a long time ago. I always enjoyed painting and carpentry, although I know I’m no Picasso.

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“But the people in hospital were so good to me I just wanted to do something to thank them.

“I’m not surprised the NHS has such a good reputation with people like that working there.”

Specialist hand physiotherapist Iona Davies added: “Following surgery and initial assessment at Morriston Hospital, Mr Taylor was able to access our specialist hand therapy services virtually, at a time when local therapy services were constrained due to Covid.

“This eliminated the need for him to travel from Tredegar, where he lives and cares for his disabled wife.

“He has been dedicated to his rehabilitation and exercises, and as a consequence has been able to achieve his treatment goals, returning to woodwork and painting. The outcome following such an injury is dependent as much on patient’s motivation and commitment as it is on surgical skill and therapy input.

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“We were delighted to receive his gift.”

Lead image: Colin and daughter Heather with the painting of Morriston Hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea Bay NHS

Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost

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Plans for a state-of-the-art new operating theatre at Morriston Hospital which combines a traditional operating room with advanced medical imagery, have taken a huge step forward.

Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan has endorsed the high level multi million pound proposal. This means Swansea Bay University Health Board can now develop the next-stage detailed business case for the Vascular Hybrid Theatre for South West Wales.

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Vascular surgery treats patients with diseased arteries and veins. Blocked arteries can result in limb loss (amputation) and swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) which can burst, resulting in sudden death.

The Vascular Hybrid Theatre, the first in South West Wales, will combine operating theatre functionality and state of the art X-ray imaging equipment. It will treat around 500 patients a year, and some patients who currently need to go to England for treatment will be able to have their care in Swansea instead. The theatre could open early in 2025.

The new theatre will be used by Morrison Hospital’s vascular surgeons and radiologists to carry out minimally invasive techniques, often known as ‘keyhole surgery.

Compared with traditional surgery, hybrid operating theatre surgery is less invasive and less traumatic for patients. The hybrid approach will give patients quicker access to surgery and in some cases could mean the difference between limbs, and lives, being saved.

Currently, a significant number of South West Wales’ patients undergo staged procedures during their care, which can lead to multiple or prolonged stays in hospital.

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Swansea bay University Health Board say that access to these new advanced surgical technologies will allow Morriston’s vascular surgeons to perform both minimally-invasive image guided procedures, as well as traditional open surgery. This will not only improve the overall patient experience, but reduce the risk of amputation, reduce the length of stay in hospital and cut waiting times. 

The hybrid theatre will treat patients from the Swansea Bay, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.

Investment in the new theatre will also save a significant amount of money for the health service because the surgical techniques the hybrid model supports not only improve patient outcomes, they are also much more efficient.

The hybrid theatre will also support the clinical staff teaching.

Huma Stone, Swansea Bay UHB’s Associate Service Director, Clinical Support Services for Morriston Hospital, said: “We welcome this long awaited development and are excited that we will be able to treat patients using a combination of traditional surgery and the latest minimally invasive (keyhole) treatments at the same time, saving lives and limbs. This also reduces the number of times a patient is admitted, and shortens the patient stay in hospital.”

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Senior Consultant Vascular Surgeon Louis Fligelstone said: “This brings state of the art facilities to west Wales that will enable optimal treatment of patients with swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) and blocked blood vessels and will save lives and limbs, whilst reducing the time patients spend in hospital.” 

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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