Dumfries Maggie's Centre bid's slow progress 'baffling'

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionDiscussions started about opening a Maggie's Centre in southern Scotland some years ago

An expert in end of life care has said the slow progress being made by a bid to build a Maggie's Centre in southern Scotland is "baffling".

Proposals went before NHS Dumfries and Galloway in the summer last year but have yet to secure its backing.

Prof David Clark said there was a sense of frustration over what he felt should be a "no-brainer" for the health board.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway said it was working with Maggie's to develop a model which was right for the region.

In June 2018, the health board was asked to support proposals which would have seen it put £250,000 towards a £4m unit - with the rest of the money generated by fundraising.

The plan was to site it near the new Dumfries Infirmary.

Decision deferred

image copyrightPaul McMullin
image captionThe plans first tabled were for a centre near the new Dumfries Infirmary

A decision was deferred at that time and has still not been made.

Prof Clark, who is part of a group pressing to see the centre built, said the story went back much farther.

He first raised the issue with Maggie's in 2014 and a feasibility study followed which made the financial case for the facility.

He said he believed there were a string of compelling reasons to build a centre in Dumfries.

"We know that people affected by cancer in Dumfries and Galloway already travel to Maggie's Centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow," he said.

"They are very, very keen to see a local service."

The University of Glasgow professor said it could complement rather than duplicate existing provision and would be "a very important piece in the Maggie's jigsaw".

image copyrightMaggie's Centres
image captionMaggie Keswick Jencks, who lived in the region, developed the idea for the centres

"This was the region from which Maggie Keswick Jencks came," said Prof Clark.

"It was here that she was given her cancer diagnosis and it was from here that she and her family and other associates formed the idea of the Maggie's Centres and supported their development."

He said the project also made economic sense.

"It's an interesting financial arrangement, the NHS contribution to the running cost would be increased fourfold by charitable donation," he said.

"The pledge on the capital costs would be increased about 14-fold so the NHS, the public purse, is not being asked to fund this service it's being asked to make a contribution to it and we had a pledge that that would happen."

'Wider case'

image copyrightMiriam Graham Clark
image captionProf David Clark said the centre would be "good for the region"

Prof Clark added that the centre could also stimulate clinical innovation as well as providing research and educational opportunities.

However, he said the process appeared to have become "mired down" in consultation and being tested against "policy mantras".

He said he had tried to make a "wider case" for the project which could be "good for region".

"It would attract a world-class architect to design and build it," he said.

"It would be something that would lift our spirits, of which we could be proud, which would bring people together.

"The phrase no-brainer has been used - to me this is clearly a no-brainer."

image copyrightMaggie's Centres
image captionProf Clark said people from the region already travelled to Edinburgh and Glasgow

Prof Clark said he feared the time frame had "unravelled" with a funding bid to the health board currently being revised.

"We have about 1,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed every year in Dumfries and Galloway," he added.

"The health board's own figures suggest that living in the region at any one time there about another 10,000 people who have been affected by cancer directly.

"To us this is a world-class offering, it's baffling that our region is staring it in the face and not embracing it."

'Getting things right'

A health board statement said: "We are actively engaged with Maggie's, and working with them to develop a model that serves the population of Dumfries and Galloway."

"We understand the frustration felt by those who would benefit from having a Maggie's on their doorstep and we too would love for them to be able to come into a centre," added Maggie's chief executive Laura Lee.

"However, we do also appreciate that things take time to get right.

"We hope to have some more definite news early next year."

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