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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 08:40 GMT
Cancer patient's 'unfair' journey
Muriel Buckby
Muriel Buckby has a 170-mile round journey three times a week
A cancer charity has highlighted the case of an 87-year-old woman who has to undergo a 175-mile round trip to have breast cancer treatment.

Muriel Buckby, from Aberedw, in Powys, must travel to Cheltenham to receive radiotherapy.

Macmillan Cancer Relief says patients in some rural areas are facing "grossly unfair" journeys of up to 200 miles.

Three Counties Cancer Network said it was looking at providing radiotherapy services closer to patients' homes.

Mrs Buckby's family said they were worried about the effect the three-times-a-week journey has on her and want closer facilities.

Mrs Buckby, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November, lives in the catchment area of the Three Counties Cancer Network, which has its oncology centre in Cheltenham - a two-hour drive from her home.

Although she can take advantage of an over-night facility, Ms Buckby, who lives alone, has to return home after her treatment in order to care for her dog.

You shouldn't have to go on such a long journey particularly when you are not feeling too good
Muriel Buckby

But she says that the travelling is not helping with her recovery.

"I get up about half past five when I'm going to Cheltenham in case I'm not ready for the driver," she said.

"The journey seems never-ending and I can't wait to get home to have a cup of tea.

"It is too long because it is too tiring and the treatment makes you tired and it builds up - the more treatment you have the more tired you become.

"And then with the journey on top of it you are really tired. If it was a shorter journey obviously it would be a lot better.

"There should be somewhere closer. You shouldn't have to go on such a long journey particularly when you are not feeling too good.

"It's bad enough when you are feeling well but when you are feeling off colour, it's not good to have such a long journey," she added.

Jackie Gavin
Her daughter Jackie Gavin said the journey was too long

Her daughter Jackie Gavin said: "My mother is coping very well - but she is becoming tired and we're not through the treatment yet and I think the journey has contributed to the tiredness factor.

"I think there are people who are not as well as my mother is and how they would cope with the journey on top of the treatment, I have no idea.

"I know some people have decided not to have treatment because they couldn't face the journey - it's three times a week."

Nicola Strother-Smith, director of the Three Counties Cancer Network said they were bringing together patients, hospitals and primary care trusts to look at what service could be brought closer to patients' homes.

"We have already got chemotherapy closer to patients' homes. We have got two new oncologists appointed and they'll provide more appointments in Herefordshire.

"Now we have got to decide whether we can deliver radiotherapy closer to patients' homes."

She added the size of machines and the team of people needed for radiotherapy posed more of a challenge for devolving services to smaller units.

Mrs Buckby and her family are backing a campaign for a new radiotherapy unit to be set up at Hereford and say such a facility would cut the journey times for her treatment by half.

Macmillan Cancer Relief has said patients like Ms Buckby are among those who face some of the longest journeys for cancer treatment in the UK - with some also facing high travel costs.

Peter Cardy from the charity said: "It seems grossly unfair that cancer patients in rural areas appear to have the worst travelling times and end up paying for this out of their own pockets."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
One women's experience of having to travel for treatment



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