Friday, 25 November 2016

This is an outstanding hospital thanks to all our staff who go the extra mile - Chris Outram

Chris Outram, Chair of The Christie Board

Chris Outram, Chair of The Christie Board
I’m incredibly fortunate to be Chair of The Christie at such an exciting time for the organisation. The news that The Christie has been rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, following its rigorous comprehensive inspection back in May, is just fantastic.  

I’ve known that this is an outstanding hospital from the very first day I joined the  
Trust two years ago, but it is very humbling when an independent watchdog like the CQC comes to the same conclusion.

I have constantly been struck by the way The Christie brings together compassion, kindness and respect for our patients and for each other, alongside great evidence-based care and treatment, and world class research and teaching. It's a wonderful combination.  

To have the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards – who, as former National Cancer ‘Tsar’ does know a thing or two about cancer services – describe the care at The Christie as ‘of exceptional quality’ is a massive accolade. I’m not aware of the CQC saying that about any other trust yet.  

He goes on to state that we are helping to shape the future of cancer care, and that we represent ‘a clear example of a trust leading in its field’. Such warm recognition for the humanity of our care, that brings leading edge, world class treatment for the benefit of all our patients, is something that we should savour for a long time – and continue to nurture.

The CQC also highlighted a number of outstanding practices including:

  • The surgical division’s ‘remarkable’ approach to treatment with the multidisciplinary cancer team offering bespoke multi-specialities to patients which improved survival rates
  • The Trust’s ‘outstanding’ programme of alternative and complementary therapies
  • The structure of the Trust’s end of life care team which is now being rolled out across cancer centres throughout the country.

We could not have achieved this without our dedicated staff who work tirelessly to give the very best care and treatment possible to our patients. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank each and every member of staff at The Christie for everything they do to make The Christie such a special place.   
There are so many small examples of our staff thoughtfully helping our patients in a way that can make a big difference.

One recent example is that a couple of weeks ago I stopped at the Oak Road entrance to take a few photos of the lovely posters of the seasons made for us by local schoolchildren. I got talking with an elderly patient, who told me how much he and his family appreciated the compassion and care displayed to them by every Christie member of staff they came across. 

He told me that during a recent outpatient appointment there had been an unexpected downpour of rain; when he and his wife returned to their car at the Oak Road entrance they realised that they had left one of their windows completely open. But the car interior hadn't got wet because a member of staff had taped a plastic bag over the open window to protect it. 

I'd like to thank that member of staff, and all of our staff, who do an outstanding job showing our patients and each other such care, kindness and respect on a daily basis. This really was an example of 'going the extra mile' - or as management textbooks might put it, 'discretionary effort'. It's this sort of story that makes me so honoured to be The Christie’s Chair.  

One of the great things about The Christie is that not only do our staff show such kindness and respect, but they also deliver that alongside great evidence-based care and treatment, and world class research and teaching. It's a fantastic combination. 

A recent example of this is the active and leading part we have played in Manchester's successful application to the National Institute for Health Research for Biomedical Research Centre status, bringing further resources and prestige to our cancer research programmes. 

But the NHS is facing highly challenging times, and we are not immune from this, no matter how hard we strive.

Having recently been elected to the national Board of NHS Providers (the “trade association” for NHS hospitals) it’s interesting to hear how the discussions taking place nationally mirror the discussions taking place locally in Greater Manchester about how hard everyone in the NHS is working to maintain and improve the quality and standards of care for patients despite the tough financial climate. This is just as true of us at The Christie where many staff are contributing to our efforts to implement cost improvements whilst transforming the standards of care we offer. It is not easy, but we have made tremendous progress. 

Developments in the wider political arena, both here and across the Atlantic, present us with another set of challenges, on which I want to make the views of the whole Trust Board - crystal clear. It is our Christie values of compassion, integrity and respect, for our patients and for each other that bind us together and support all that we do. Those values include an absolute commitment to diversity and inclusion and without them we could not be an outstanding organisation.

The news at the moment is full of stories and debate that risk making anyone who sees themselves as "different" or "foreign" feel unwelcome. For example, a positive news story a few weeks ago, about investing more in medical training, somehow became a suggestion that perhaps doctors from overseas were less welcome. But the NHS has always been a diverse organisation, and so has The Christie. 

We want to say, in the strongest possible terms, that this great organisation of ours, and the patients that we serve, depend on the contribution of each and every member of staff. We value the fact that we are a diverse and international organisation, with the exciting ambition of being in the top five in the world - and with that ambition, what else could we be. No matter where in the world our staff come from - and no matter what their gender, race, job, sexuality or anything else – we want them to know that their work is valued and appreciated, and that we support them and need them here as part of our team. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

I’m so proud to say ‘I did it for The Christie’ and I will continue to do so - Janice Moss

Janice Moss, Christie fundraiser and Partner Governor

Janice Moss
I am married and a mother of two sons, so when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of my first I thoughts was that I wouldn’t see my sons finish their education, and I became quite depressed.    

The staff who gave me radiotherapy at The Christie were incredibly kind, understanding, caring and patient with me; and 20 years on, not only are my sons married, I also have four wonderful grandchildren who are the light of my life.

A few months after I was successfully treated at The Christie I came across a photo in my local newspaper of the Altrincham & Sale fundraising group for The Christie and I immediately knew I should join them.   

My life changed from that day onwards, and it has been one of the best things I have ever done. Over 19 years later, I am Chair of Altrincham & Sale fundraising group. We work so hard to raise much needed money for The Christie charity, but we also have a lot of fun and I have met so many wonderful people.     

We are all used to hearing stories about people’s lives (relevant and irrelevant) when we are standing doing bucket collections and I am truly overwhelmed by total strangers’ generosity towards the hospital. “We all know someone who has been touched by The Christie” is one of the most common sentences I hear, day in and day out.

As well as being involved in the local fundraising group, I also became a volunteer at The Christie over 10 years ago. As a volunteer, I have done all sorts of things including handing out cupcakes to staff in parts of the hospital that I didn’t know existed, filing, surveying patients, making tea and toast for families waiting for a patient to come back from day surgery and of course working shifts in the May Draper Tea Bar (what foresight that lady must have had).

I have met so many amazing and grateful patients who come for a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit, and very often a chat. And I have made lots of wonderful friends who serve behind the tea bar with me. Many of them have been volunteering at The Christie for a long time and what they don’t know about the hospital is not worth knowing!

I have been to many seminars and I have attended the Spotlight events. I never cease to be amazed by the developments being made to treat cancer patients. I often come away wondering what else could possibly be discovered in the future. Then I hear about new drug trials, new machines, and new treatments; and the hope they bring.

Very recently, I was honoured to take another big step for The Christie, when I became a Partner Governor for The Christie charity. 

It is fortunate that I am retired because I am busier than I have ever been; I am only just finding time to keep up with my other outside interests and you can also tell I don’t like housework!

Janice Moss (3rd from left)
Throughout the last 20 years I have done many things for The Christie. I am therefore delighted to have been asked to support a new charity fundraising campaign, ‘I did it for The Christie’. This exciting new campaign aims to encourage people to do something for The Christie and for cancer patients throughout the North West. What you choose to do can be as little as liking the charity’s Facebook page, or as much as 20 years of fundraising like me!

My involvement with The Christie all started with a diagnosis of breast cancer, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m so proud to say ‘I did it for The Christie’, and I will continue to do so.

Please visit to find out what you can do.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

MR linac is a pioneering new form of radiotherapy that can ‘see and treat’ cancer with pinpoint accuracy - Shaun Atherton

Shaun Atherton, radiotherapy physics team manager for technical services

Shaun Atherton
It seems a long time since The Christie first became part of the Elekta MR-linac consortium. For those who don’t know what that is, MR-linac is a pioneering new form of radiotherapy machine that can ‘see and treat’ cancer with pinpoint accuracy. 

MR-linac combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning and tumour-busting radiotherapy treatment in one hi-tech package – and it will be one of only seven in the world! 

We are very lucky to be working with one of the world’s leading providers of radiotherapy equipment, Elekta, as part of a worldwide consortium with seven other world class cancer centres and the technology giant Phillips to bring MR-linac to The Christie.

As with any big project of this nature there have been numerous challenges to overcome and many ups and downs along the way, but it is here at last!

The Linac ring
The bunker that the MR-linac will be situated in has been one of the biggest challenges. We discovered that there’s a lot of history buried in that bunker which has housed lots of different types of radiotherapy machine (Linac) in the past. When I first joined The Christie in 1993, it was a Philips SL75-14, and before that it was a HILETRON. For the last 12 years it has been a Elekta Synergy Linac.

This history made it difficult to find accurate records for the bunker and made for a fascinating journey for both designers and building contractors. Thankfully, having paid a fixed price for the building work, the costs of this project have remained in budget.

Initially, the Elekta Synergy Linac that has been used for the past 12 years was removed by the physics team at The Christie. This machine itself was revolutionary at the time, having a cone beam CT imaging system, which has now become the gold standard for radiotherapy imaging. Our MR-linac will carry on the fine Christie tradition of being at the cutting edge of radiotherapy technology.

Once the Synergy Linac had been removed, the building contractors, DD Porters moved in to start the refurbishment of the bunker and control area. The build has taken many turns, including encountering steel where it shouldn’t have been, removing iron reinforcing bars and replacing them with MR friendly steel reinforcement bars and also underpinning a primary radiation barrier.

The whole bunker had to be excavated. As the Linac is wrapped around an MR unit it has to be partially installed below floor level, to allow the radiographers to work at arms level and for the Linac part of the machine to rotate 360 degrees around the patient. 

The building contractors also had to remove any iron reinforcements to ensure there was no effect on the magnetic field for the 1.5 tesla MR scanner, causing image distortions or induced magnetism which could affect any equipment in this bunker in the future. This was a very labour intensive process. As the bunker is landlocked, access to it was through the main radiotherapy department, creating its own unique issues, especially with cleaning.

Lifting crane
The safety of our staff, patients, and the public is our top priority on a project like this. That’s why a team of experts from Christie Medical Physics and Engineering have looked at radiation protection very carefully to ensure that MR-linac is totally safe for everyone. 

Once all the excavations had occurred to strip the bunker back to its shell, and to ease
delivery, DD Porters had to start putting it back together. All of the concrete had to be manually lifted into the bunker and there were many long evenings to get this finished.

MR-linac ring entering the hole in the roof
The delivery of the main components for the MR-linac was a very well thought out process. It involved closing Wilmslow Road on Sunday 9th October from 4am until early evening to allow the crane to do its work. The crane needed over 100 tonnes of counterbalance to safely lift the largest parts of the MR-linac and the length of the crane arm was over 40m. 

The next exciting phase of the work will be fitting the RF cage in November, an enclosure used to block electrical fields which might otherwise interfere with the very sensitive equipment inside. Once this is done, we can finalise the installation and get the equipment working. 

Elekta along with Christie medical physics and engineering and the MR-linac project team will be working closely together to ensure this state of the art equipment delivers world class treatment to Christie patients in the future. Whilst this is happening, our clinical staff will be working on how best to use the new technology to treat patients and which patients will get the greatest benefit from MR-linac. As nobody has yet treated a patient with an MR-linac anywhere in the world, much of this work will be done through research activities.
Patient facilities including waiting area, changing rooms and treatment room

Finally, work is continuing to provide a world class suite for patients to make their experience as friendly and safe as possible. 

Our MR colleagues from diagnostic radiology and the MR scientists were crucial in designing this area.

I feel truly privileged to be involved in such an exciting and innovative project, having to solve complex problems day in and day out. I know more than anything that everyone who is involved in this project is working together as one team to bring the very latest technology to The Christie and to ensure that our patients get the very best treatments they can for their cancer.