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07 May 2013

Specialist Unit for South West

Patients are experiencing the benefits of a life-enhancing treatment close to home as NHS Blood and Transplant and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has made Extracorporeal Photopheresis (ECP) therapy available inBristol. 

Cancer patients across the South West, who require this specialist treatment where their white cells are treated using ultraviolet light, can now be seen at NHS Blood and Transplant's Apheresis Unit. 

Previously, patients who needed ECP therapy had to regularly travel toLondon, often with an overnight stay. 

The ECP clinic will help to meet increasing demand for the service as well as place patients in a prime position for other treatment and services provided by University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Clinical Haematology and Dermatology departments. 

The life-enhancing ECP treatment is used to help assist patients with conditions commonly associated with cancer such as severe cases of cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (CTCL), a non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the skin, and patients who have received a stem cell transplant but it has reacted with their own tissues - known as graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). 

ECP is a highly specialised two-day process which involves using cutting-edge equipment to remove the white cells from a patient's blood. These are then treated using ultraviolet light and returned to the patient. 

Daniel Gould, a 27 year old fromExeter, knows how important these therapies are. He developed GvHD in 2011 after treatment for Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Daniel said:  "I had a bone marrow transplant in September 2010 which led to graft-versus-host disease. This made my skin very tight and meant it was difficult to bend my joints, at one stage I had to walk around with my arms constantly bent at 90 degree angles. 

"My treatment initially started in June 2012 where I would to regularly travel up to London by train and stay overnight on my own in hospital accommodation. After four months of treatment my ECP therapy was transferred to Bristol, and this has made a huge difference to my quality of life. The whole experience is more relaxing and I can now drive fromExeter to Bristol which takes much less time. The added bonus is that my wife now joins me for support." 

Catherine Howell, Chief Nurse of Patient Services at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:  "So far in Bristol we have carried out 167 treatments on 17 different patients since September 2012. This service is already making a huge difference to patients' lives in the South West and we hope it will change the lives of many more. 

"The new treatment being offered at our Bristol unit is in response to the growing needs of patients in the region. We are pleased to be able to offer such a specialist service and to be supported by the South West Specialised Commissioners and work collaboratively with the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Clinical Haematology and Dermatology Departments. 

"Although we may be better known for our work with blood and organ donation, this is just one of many therapies we offer to those with rare disorders thanks to the dedication of our expert teams across the country." 

Dr Stephen Robinson, Consultant Haematologist and Lead Clinician Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at UH Bristol, said: "This service development represents a major step forward in the delivery of care to bone marrow transplant patients throughout the South West and will significantly improve their quality of life."