LIFE-CHANGING radiotherapy treatment has arrived at the Great Western Hospital and has been trialled – on teddy bears.

The new intra-operative radiotherapy could change the lives of 150 Swindon women each year but, in order to keep the machine on the premises, the GWH needs to raise a total of £75,000 in order to pay for the lease.

Last week, staff at the hospital began training on the machine with the use of fluffy bears and the help of doctors from Germany.

Nathan Coombs, consultant breast surgeon at the GWH, said: “It’s fantastic. It’s arrived earlier than we expected and it’s really going to put Swindon on the map because, not only will we be able to deliver this new treatment, but we are also part of an international research study.

“The equipment arrived about a week ago from Germany and then we had to wait for the people from Germany to arrive who could train us on it.

“When they arrived we went through how it would work using a teddy bear as the mock patient.”

Although staff are already receiving the training, the first patient is not expected to receive the treatment until autumn while final checks and other administrative functions are carried out.

In the meantime, Nathan will continue to develop his skills using the new equipment and familiarising the staff who will use it.

The treatment, which will only take about 25 minutes to apply, works by zapping the areas affected by breast cancer with radiotherapy while the patient is still in the operating room, rather than the patient needing to travel to Oxford or Bath to receive traditional radiotherapy.

It is being trialled at hospitals in Winchester, Harlow, Dundee and London as part of a study and should quicken recovery times and lessen the pain and sensitivity experienced following normal radiotherapy. It is also expected to reduce the risk of infection.

Although they have already raised £15,000, Brighter Futures – the GWH NHS Foundation Trust’s charity which helps to fund new treatments not available through the NHS budget – is still some way off its fundraising target.

Jen Green, head of fundraising for Brighter Futures, said: “We have hit £15,000.

“But we still have some way to go to the £75,000 target and we really hope that people in Swindon will continue to get behind the campaign.

“What breast cancer charities are looking to do is raise money for research, and trying to fund cancer treatments, which is what we are trying to do here where we are fundraising for this treatment which can help women in Swindon, locally.”

To suggest fundraising ideas or get involved with events, email or call 01793 605631.

To donate to Brighter Futures, visit