A state-of-the-art radiotherapy unit in Dorset set to benefit thousands of patients will be open by summer, health chiefs have revealed.

Work is progressing at the satellite centre billed as ‘the biggest single improvement to Dorset County Hospital’s facilities since it was built’ which will mean residents will not have to travel so far for cancer treatment.

Representatives from the hospital were joined by the Mayor of Dorchester, Councillor Susie Holford, and representatives from Poole Hospital for a tour of the building and a special bricklaying ceremony.

The radiotherapy unit though to benefit around 5000 patients each year has been partly funded by a generous donation from Poole businessman Robert White, which together with NHS funds secured by Poole Hospital will provide for two Linear Accelerator (LINAC) radiotherapy devices, at a combined investment of £7.4million.

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Chairman, Mark Addison, joined Cllr Holford to lay one of the building’s bricks.

Mr Addison said: “It is terrific. The construction has come on amazingly and it will make a huge difference to people who live in West Dorset.

“I would say this is the biggest single improvement to the hospital’s facilities since it was built.”

As part of the project, Dorset County Hospital Charity, supported by Fortuneswell Cancer Trust, will raise £1.75 million to build an outpatient department for all cancer patients above the new radiotherapy facility.

Simon Pearson, head of funding at Dorset County Hospital said: “Effectively the community have invested their time to fundraise for it. We have heard personal stories of people who are pleased they won’t have to travel as far for their treatment. I think that is why we have received such great support. This is the NHS in development in West Dorset and people from the community have made it happen.”

The unit will act as a satellite centre of the Dorset Cancer Centre and will significantly reduce the journey time that people in the north, south and west of the county currently face in travelling to Poole for radiotherapy treatment.