A DEDICATED £650,000 support centre for cancer patients is set to open at Southend Hospital in March.

The project is a joint initiative between the hospital and Macmillan Cancer Care, and will offer crucial support and advice to patients and their families.

The building will have a lounge, counselling room, Macmillan nurse on hand every day, a health and wellbeing room for reiki, aromatherapy and other treatments, and a group activity room for support groups.

Visitors will be able to see a counsellor, receive referrals for other wards, services and groups, get advice and guidance and share experiences, all in one place.

Friederike Englund, Macmillan information and support manager, said: “People hear cancer and go into complete shock mode – they don’t know where to begin, so our first step is giving them information.

“It’s also for the family and carers – they can talk about the things they may be frightened about, where previously they might not have known where to go.

“Before, all the resources were separate, so the clinic will be one place where they can find out all the support available to them – it’s a one-stop centre.”

F ri e d e r i ke , who has 30 years experience working with people who have cancer and other chronic illnesses, says the centre will offer a wealth of r e s o u r c e s under one roof. She said: “What really attracted me to the role is the opportunity to speak to patients and their families about how their illness has impacted their lives and what they want to achieve with the time they have left.

“Often, people never get the chance to do this until they go to a hospice, but the centre can offer this from diagnosis or even pre-diagnosis.

“This will make a huge difference to patients, because many live with cancer for many years.

“I can’t wait to get going. “I’m hoping to run information events for specific patient groups and cover different aspects they might be interested in, like coping with the emotional impact of cancer, diet, exercise, work and welfare.

“I will also be starting courses for patients and carerswhich will be called Hope, which stands for help overcome problems effectively.

“The sessions will help when patients are first diagnosed or at the end of their treatment, because it’s not always easy to carry on with normal life afterwards.

“I want to do lots of different projects once we are established, such as outreach, where we go into libraries, schools and colleges and offer support there, but to do that we need a lot more volunteers.”

The centre is appealing for more than 20 volunteers to give a minimum of three hours a week for the minimum term of one year. Friederike said: “We need people who are compassionate, good communicators and want to help people. They don’t have to have any experience and we provide the training.

“We ask that they commit for a year because of the amount of training they are given.”

To volunteer, or to find out more information, contact Friederike by e-mail at friederike.englund@southend.nhs.uk