TV presenter Gloria Hunniford Photo: EKHT

A brand new, £250,000 mobile cancer care unit has hit the road after east Kent residents, businesses and local charities supported a fundraising campaign to help provide cancer patients with treatment in their communities.

The new vehicle, named Caron after TV presenter Caron Keating, who died from breast cancer in 2004, is the latest to be provided by charity Hope for Tomorrow in partnership with East Kent Hospitals Trust. It replaces the first Caron treatment unit which treated more than 13,000 patients over the past 10 years.

Gloria Hunniford, Caron’s mother and also a TV presenter, officially unveiled the new unit today (Friday, 29 July) and said: “I am very proud and delighted that the new Hope for Tomorrow mobile cancer care unit for East Kent will bear Caron’s name.

“She had to undergo many sessions of chemotherapy treatment. Travelling for cancer treatment can be difficult, stressful and time-consuming, for so many people.

“It’s just amazing to see how these mobile units can make life easier for so many patients. They are such a brilliant asset to the community.”

Unveiling the £250,000 mobile cancer care unit Photo: EKHT

Caron is one of 12 mobile cancer care units nationwide and allows patients across East Kent to have their cancer treatment closer to home, removing the need to travel to hospital – something which can often mean long journeys by car or on public transport.

Leigh Carvill, chemotherapy unit manager for East Kent Hospitals, said: “The outreach cancer service provided by Caron is invaluable and means treatment does not need to dominate people’s lives.

“We are delighted to be able to use this fantastic new vehicle which will give our patients an even better experience and also provide improved facilities for our staff.

“The service has been even more important during the pandemic, when cancer patients have felt safer having their treatment on board, with fewer people, than visiting a busy hospital. We are all very grateful to everyone who has helped with the fundraising to make this new unit a reality.”

Patty Owen, from Deal, had treatment for breast cancer on the current Caron vehicle.

She said: “The mobile cancer unit based in Dover, just six miles from our home in Deal, provided me an invaluable, easily accessible and truly caring and kind service during my two years of treatment. It also helped us avoid numerous 50-mile round-trips to the Kent and Canterbury hospital. I will be forever grateful!”

Improvements in the latest model include more space, and changes to the layout to allow greater privacy and comfort for patients. There is also a digital screen displaying information about the unit and the charity, so that people can find out more and get involved.

The first Caron was officially launched in October 2013 and unveiled by Caron’s brother Michael Keating. Gloria Hunniford is a patron of Hope for Tomorrow. Since then, thousands of treatments have taken place on board, in Herne Bay, Cheriton, Folkestone and Dover, saving patients an average of two hours in travel time per appointment.

Tina Seymour, chief executive of Hope for Tomorrow, said: “We have been working closely with East Kent Hospitals Trust to bring cancer care closer to its communities for over a decade.

“After treating thousands of patients, we are delighted that thousands more will be able to benefit from care and treatment on the new Caron, without the need for long journeys.

“At a stressful time in their lives, patients and their families really value the combination of the great service they receive from NHS staff and the convenience provided by our mobile treatment units.”

An appeal was launched in 2018 to raise funds for the new treatment unit, and the target was raised thanks to individual donors and organisations including the Mark Benevolent Fund, Caron Keating Foundation, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, Kent Community Foundation, Pink Ribbon Foundation, The Lawson Trust, The Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund, The Roger de Haan Charitable Trust, The Albert Hunt Trust and The Edward Gostling Foundation.

It costs £212 a day to keep Caron on the road – for more information or to donate online visit https://hopefortomorrow.org.uk/donate/

By Ed

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