A DECISION to close a Winchester branch of a cancer trust has been met with anger.
Wessex Cancer Trust is closing its branch based at the Winchester Centre in St George’s Street in July.
It says that the lease on the building is coming to an end, while a boss at the trust also blamed parking and traffic issues in the city.
It is not officially known how many staff will be affected by the closure, however a source said up to two full time staff could be affected and up to four part time carers too, along with voluntary posts going.
One person affected, who asked not to be named, said: “The Trust has failed to promote its services properly.
“Despite there being no change in the number of cancer sufferers in the Winchester district there has been a drop off in numbers.
“The Trust has been pushing people to use the recently opened Chandler’s Ford centre.”
Chief executive at Wessex Cancer Trust Cait Allen confirmed the upcoming closure, saying: “The lease on our Winchester centre comes to an end in the next few months.
“We have decided not to renew but instead to seek a centre slightly further north so we can support people in Winchester and Basingstoke.
“Clients have been struggling to get to the centre due to traffic and parking challenges in Winchester city centre.
“As a result, many have chosen to use our Chandler’s Ford centre instead, as it has a car park at the back.
“Many of our Winchester staff and volunteers work in the Chandler’s Ford centre too.”
Alan House, the charity's chairman, said: “As a charity, we constantly review how we provide our services and give support to those affected by cancer, and being located in appropriate premises within carefully selected geographical areas is vital.
“The decision to relocate Winchester services was not driven by cost. We run our services extremely efficiently and the annual cost of the Winchester Centre is only £75k per year. The decision was primarily driven by clients telling us the Centre is not in the right place, and as a result we were only seeing as few as one or two clients per day - our other Centres see up to five times that amount.
“This has been the case for almost two years, in spite of considerable and continued efforts by the Trust, local centre staff and volunteers, to promote the Centre.
"Like all of our Centres, it is displayed on our website and in all our publicity material. In addition, we regularly visit Winchester Hospital where we have strong contacts on the cancer wards, who know about the service.
"They give newly diagnosed patients a special Wessex Cancer Trust folder telling them about our centres, as well as having our leaflets. We also go into the hospital and have a stand promoting services. We have worked hard to let local GPs know, including attending GP meetings and talking to the larger practices.
"In spite of all these efforts, client numbers are lower in Winchester than is experienced at our other centres.
“Having given due consideration to all of the impacts and, as we have reached a moment in time when we have to decide whether to renew the lease for the premises we use, the Trust decided to relocate the services from this particular Centre and then consider options to establish a new Centre north of Winchester, with our existing Centre in Chandlers Ford providing services to the south of the City.
"We also have long-established Centres in the Isle of Wight, Cosham and in Hythe and recently, after a period of careful consideration, we have opened new Centres in Bournemouth and in Salisbury. All these centres are currently busy.
"The Winchester Centre will close by the end of August, but all of our existing clients will be offered care for as long as they need it. We currently have around 35 people accessing the service. Several of our Winchester clients do not, in fact, live in Winchester, so may choose to access our other centres.
“The Trust fully recognises the efforts of our staff and volunteers at the Winchester Centre since it has been open. We are so grateful for all that they have done and applaud their hard work in supporting those affected by cancer and for trying so hard to publicise our services, in order to attract more clients. T
"The opportunity to volunteer at one of our other Centres or within one of our charity shops does, of course, remain an option for those who wish to continue their association with the Trust. Affected staff are being supported via the usual employment processes as may be appropriate to each individual. All of them currently work at our Chandlers Ford Centre as well as Winchester.
“The Trust remains fully committed to supporting those affected by cancer and we will continue to review the services we offer to make sure we are making the very best use of our donations and our buildings.”