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Some services for cancer patients at London’s world famous Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have resumed this week after a large fire destroyed much of the roof and upper floors in the early afternoon of 2 January. But the trust said it would take months to repair, rebuild, and refurbish the hospital completely.
The Royal Marsden was the first hospital in the world to be dedicated to cancer treatment and research, and sees more than 40 000 patients every year.
Around 25 fire engines attended the fire and 120 fire fighters came to the scene as the entire hospital, including 160 patients and 200 staff, was evacuated. Two operations were in progress when the alarm was raised, but these patients were safely moved to the nearby Royal Brompton hospital.
The hospital’s outpatient department and medical day unit were furthest away from the fire and reopened this week to allow patients to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy and for clinical appointments to resume. The trust’s other site at Sutton has taken some patients, and the nearby Brompton temporarily housed others.
A trust spokesperson said no medical equipment had been damaged in the fire and confirmed that no important or expensive equipment had been damaged by the water used to extinguish it. No research materials had been affected.
“We haven’t fully assessed the damage to the hospital yet,” said the spokesperson. “We cannot guesstimate yet when the hospital will be back to normal. A lot of other trusts have offered us help and support.”
Cally Palmer, trust chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be able to open up part of our hospital so soon after last week’s dreadful fire. Our first concern is always for our patients and our main aim is to reassure them that we are doing everything we can to get back to as normal a service as possible.”
“This has been a difficult time for our patients and our staff and I would like to give special thanks to them for the patience and hard work they have all put in,” she said. She also thanked the emergency services, the Royal Brompton, and “all those who have supported us at this difficult time.”
Professor Karol Sikora, leading cancer specialist and medical director of CancerPartners UK, an organisation that promotes good cancer care, said the damage could have been a lot worse.
“They decanted the patients safely,” he said. “The critical thing is getting those radiotherapy machines back in order and delivering chemotherapy in the day wards. I believe there were no serious injuries for patients, and a few days’ delay in cancer treatment will make very little difference to the majority of patients.”