Building work has begun on a brand new cancer and wellbeing centre for North Devon.

The £1.5million appeal has now surpassed the £800,000 mark, and construction at North Devon District Hospital officially began today (Tuesday, April 9).

The centre, which will support cancer patients, people with long-term conditions and their families through every stage of their journey, is hoped to open in December.

This will be a first for North Devon, with the nearest cancer support centres currently in Exeter or Plymouth.

In 2018, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT) received around 9,000 referrals for cancer and almost 2,000 people were diagnosed with cancer, an increase of 19 per cent since 2017.

While the Trust sees more than 2,000 patients and their families every year, far more people are currently living with cancer in North Devon – around 6,000.

Julie Whitton, fundraiser at Over and Above, said: “There is rising demand in northern Devon for cancer services and support for people with long-term conditions.

Supporters of Over and Above at the official turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: Sarah HowellsSupporters of Over and Above at the official turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: Sarah Howells

“These people need financial, emotional and practical support, as well as medical treatment, but the nearest dedicated cancer support centre is in Exeter.

“This is too far for many of our unwell patients and their families to travel.

“It is important we offer them support 'on their doorstep' in North Devon, and having this available in Barnstaple will be a significant step forward to meeting this demand.

Supporters of Over and Above at the official turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: Sarah HowellsSupporters of Over and Above at the official turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: Sarah Howells

“It will mean so much to so many local people. We're really excited that the building work has started.”

The centre has been designed by Barnstaple-based architects David Wilson Partnership Ltd.

Building plans include an open-plan lounge diner, a clinic and complementary therapy room, private counselling rooms and a meeting/activity room, which will be suitable for activities such as exercise classes.

The turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: NDHTThe turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: NDHT

The centre will include a drop-in facility, information on cancer and chronic illnesses, financial and benefits advice, hair loss support, bra fittings, nutritional advice, support to relatives and carers, and much more.

It will also provide accommodation for relatives, carers or friends who urgently need to be nearby whilst a loved one stays in hospital overnight.

David Wilson added: “We are delighted to have been involved in developing the design for the new centre, working closely with the client and the design team to create a welcoming and peaceful facility that will be a huge benefit to our community.”

The turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: NDHTThe turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: NDHT

Despite work starting, Over and Above still needs support to reach its target of £1.5million.

The charity will also need to raise around £110,000 a year to sustain the running of the centre.

Julie added: “We're about halfway through the appeal now, and we really need to push to reach our target.

Supporters of Over and Above at the official turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: Sarah HowellsSupporters of Over and Above at the official turf cut for the new cancer and wellbeing centre. Picture: Sarah Howells

“This centre will make a huge difference to people with life-changing illnesses and their loved ones right from the moment it opens, and hopefully far into the future.

“You can be part of this by sending your donations to the charity, leaving a lasting legacy in your will or by taking part in any fundraising or sponsored events.”

Find out more about the appeal on the Over and Above website: http://overabove.org.uk/what-we-do/our-appeals/north-devon-cancer-and-wellbeing-centre-appeal/