Work on the £18m radiotherapy unit at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital is expected to take a year and a half.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is overseeing the building and management of the new centre, says it is hoped work will be complete by the end of 2021.

Preliminary work began this week, with pictures showing surveyors on the planned site of the unit in the car park opposite the Brunel Treatment Centre on the main hospital site off Marlborough Road.

The radiotherapy unit, which will save cancer patients from Swindon a 70-mile round trip for treatment in Oxford, will cost £18m to build. The majority of that cost – almost £16m – is being met by a government loan. A Brighter Futures appeal raised £2.9m to help kit out the centre, with the fundraiser helped over the line before Christmas 2018 by a £175,000 grant from Swindon Rotary clubs.

Asked why it had taken so long for the project to come to fruition, a spokeswoman for OUH said there were several factors. “This includes putting appropriate funding in place and the associated approvals, planning permission, preparatory works, acquiring a contractor, and also more recently the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”