The unit, due to be completed in April next year, is a joint partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and the Department of Health and Social Services.
The 5.36 million development will be built opposite Laurel House on the Antrim Area Hospital site and will have 12 ensuite bedrooms and three consulting rooms. Overnight accommodation will also be available for relatives.
Specialist staff at the centre will provide comprehensive palliative care to patients with cancer and other life-limiting conditions. The unit will also deliver a range of day care and inpatient services including symptom control, rehabilitation and end-of-life care.
Outpatient services for people who need day care but do not need to stay in the unit will also be provided. There will also be a day room and a quiet room where patients can socialise or relax. A room for education and staff training will also be provided. Patients and their families will also be able to access emotional and financial support, complementary therapies and respite care in what will be a comfortable and caring environment.
Macmillan’s general manager for Northern Ireland, Heather Monteverde, said support for the project has been tremendous.
"The unit will be staffed by a specialist team who will be working to enhance the quality of life of patients and carers," she said.
She added the facility’s location at Antrim will allow patients to get specialist care with access to all the clinical services offered within the hospital.
Macmillan has raised 1.8 million for the project so far, and supporters are working hard to raise a further 300,000 over the next year. The appeal is being supported by a network of volunteer fundraisers operating across the Northern Trust area.
Dr Yvonne Duff, Macmillan consultant in palliative medicine, added: “I have seen substantial changes in palliative care services in the last 20 years. The remit has expanded from a focus on care at the end of life to care from the time of diagnosis and throughout the course of a progressive illness, and encompasses a full range of care and support services for patients and their families. This unit will greatly enhance palliative care services within the Trust and I am delighted to see the work beginning on site.”
Jim Stewart, chairman of the Northern Heath and Social Care Trust, added: "Macmillan has extensive expertise in developing palliative care environments throughout the UK so their role has been crucial in both designing the unit and in delivering the service and the location at Antrim Area Hospital will allow patients to receive specialist palliative care with access to all the clinical services offered within the hospital.”