ROTARIANS across Swindon and beyond have pledged their financial support to an ambitious campaign to raise £3m towards a dedicated radiotherapy unit at the Great Western Hospital.

A total of nine rotary clubs in Swindon, Royal Wootton Bassett, Cricklade and Marlborough are the first in the area to have answered a Swindon and Wiltshire wide call for donations to allow cancer patients to receive radiation treatment close to home.

People with the condition have to travel up to an hour-and-a-half each way to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford to use one of five machines available.

The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust board last month backed the creation of the new unit, which would help ease demand and allow Swindon residents to receive treatment much closer to home.

The OUHT would pay up to £14.7m for the unit but £3m would be needed from fundraising across Swindon and Wiltshire.

Rotary district protection officer Andrew Griffith, who is coordinating the fundraising effort, said groups in and around Swindon were determined to ensure the burden of an unnecessarily exhausting journey was lifted from patients’ shoulders.

He said: “Locally there are five Rotary clubs in Swindon, two clubs in Royal Wootton Bassett and one each in Cricklade and Marlborough all ready to assist in any way we can because we are all fully aware of the physical pain, discomfort and inconvenience patients have to endure whilst making the regular arduous journey to and from Oxford mostly for relatively short treatment sessions.

“A local facility would alleviate the pain and suffering they experience.

“It is unacceptable in this modern age that people have to travel that far for treatment.”

The local groups are also hoping to secure the backing of their fellow Rotarians further afield in the proposed radiotherapy centre’s extended catchment area.

“We are looking at £3m and that’s a lot of money,” said Andrew.

“We want to raise as much as possible in as short a time as possible and make sure this long-overdue facility becomes available to patients in this area sooner rather than later.”

As a first step, Swindon Old Town Rotary Club will give away 25 per cent of all funds collected at its upcoming Celebrity Sportsman’s Dinner at The Blunsdon House Hotel on Monday, April 7.

Guests of honour will include football pundit Matt Le Tissier, former Swindon Town player Phil King and comedian Bob Webb. The popular event raises on average £5,000 each year.

Tickets cost £45 and are available from Burdens Electronics, 160 County Road or on 01793 529050.

The Rotary Club is still looking for people to donate auction or raffle prizes.