Campaigners are trying to get a well-used cancer treatment service in Fleetwood reinstated after a year-long trial came to an end.
The chemotherapy pilot sessions, which spared Fleetwood cancer patients a gruelling journey to Blackpool Victoria Hospital for treatment, proved hugely popular with cancer sufferers.
It was set up with £100,000 backing from Rosemere Cancer Foundation, which provided equipment and the cost of setting up the unit at Dock Street.
Despite its success, a key problem in reviving it is the cost of rent at Dock Street, or finding suitable alternative premises.
Fleetwood resident Paula Fowler has started an e-petition to revive it, which has now gained more than 1,500 signatures.
Another Fleetwood resident, Jeff Remblance, is backing the campaign and says if funds are an issue, he is convinced campaigners can raise cash to pay for it.
This week, in a carefully-worded statement, health providers from the Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group stated they were looking into the provision of cancer treatment “closer to home”, but said this may not necessarily be in Fleetwood.
Campaigner Mrs Fowler, who lost her mother, Ann Bond, to breast cancer in December, is still pressing ahead with her petition.
She said: “The petition will continue. Chemotherapy is hard enough, it makes people feel tired and poorly, so travelling to get treatment doesn’t help. The Fleetwood unit was spacious and welcoming and you had privacy.
“If enough people sign the petition, at least it gives us a chance to bring it back..”
Mr Remblance’s brother Steve is suffering from prostate cancer and used the service at Fleetwood.
He said: “Steve is currently taking a break from chemotherapy but he will just not be well enough to travel to Blackpool once he needs it again.The service at Fleetwood was perfect. People’s health should not come down to funding.
“I am convinced if Fleetwood people want it badly enough, we can raise the money.”
Another supporter, Anne Bradshaw, of Warwick Place, has raised the issue with MP Eric Ollerenshaw.
Mrs Bradshaw, who has raised funds for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, said: “A great opportunity will be missed if this service does not continue.”
In a statement this week, Dr Adam Janjua, a Fleetwood GP and NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group’s clinical cancer lead, said: “The CCG is about to publish its 2030 vision for health services across Fylde and Wyre following an engagement exercise with the public.
“This outlines our commitment to providing care closer to home, including cancer services, where it is clinically appropriate, safe and value for money to do so.
“With the hospital and other commissioners we are exploring the future potential of community-based cancer services across Fylde and Wyre. This will take some months because we will need to consider the whole Fylde and Wyre area and may not necessarily involve the location of services within Fleetwood.”
Fleetwood Coun Bill Barrow, a leading voice on health issues, says he has also been told by health bosses a shortage of oncology nurses and the high rent at the privately-owned Dock Street centre have been cited as reasons for the service to be mothballed.
However, questions are being asked why the service could not be based at three-quarters empty Fleetwood Hospital.
Coun Barrow, who fought cancer himself, said: “I am continuing to ask that question. I formed the impression the chances of this service returning are quite remote.
“It would be a crying shame if it didn’t come back, because it was offered on a “use it or lose it” basis – and it was certainly used.
“I have not stopped making enquiries, there are still answers to be had from the CCG, particularly on the financial side.”
But questions have been raised about the suitability of Fleetwood Hospital without huge investment to modernise it.
Sue Thompson, chief officer at Rosemere, confirmed funding was an issue.
She said: “We would be able to help fund some additional complementary facilities, such as renovating a quiet room, or providing more comfortable chairs, but our remit is not to pay for the main service – that is the role of NHS.
“A key factor here, as far as I am aware, is the cost of using Dock Street. Unfortunately, Fleetwood Hospital is no longer modern enough for today’s clinical needs and would require thousands of pounds to upgrade,”
Mr Ollerenshaw said: “The CCG has acknowledged the Fleetwood cancer unit was well used and a success. However, there are also costs of the security needed when the cancer drugs are brought to Fleetwood.
“I have asked to meet with the CCG, and Blackpool Vic, to discuss the situation, and I will then meet up with these ladies to see if there is way forward.
“I think there is a clear demand in Fleetwood and I welcome this petition.”
To add your signature to Mrs Fowler’s petition,log on to www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/62150