Health secretary Sajid Javid was in Carlisle today to officially open the new £35 million cancer care facility at the Cumberland Infirmary.

The facility - the culmination of two years’ work by health chiefs at Newcastle Hospitals and North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust - brings all non-surgical cancer services under one roof for the first time.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Mr Javid said: “It’s been a pleasure to come here today to be invited to open the new hospital.”

Mr Javid believes the facility, the first of 48 new hospitals planned by the Government for the UK, will alleviate the back log of appointments caused by pandemic pressures on hospitals.

“I think everyone understands why the waiting lists have risen during the pandemic with the NHS rightly focussing on Covid and people seriously affected by that.

“Having this new cancer centre open today is a very good example of how we can bring that waiting list down.”

He added that less travel is important for seriously ill cancer patients.

“I think it’s important to be seen as a local hospital," he said.

“A lot of the patients, what they said is that they won’t have to travel as much.

“To have it as local as possible I think really does make a difference wherever you can.”

Mr Javid was appointed as health minister in June and admitted that he had taken on a "tough job."

But, commenting on the current Covid-19 situation, he said: "I think that it's welcome that the situation has stabilised.

"I think we've still got to remain cautious and vigilant and the best way to fight off Covid is make sure people get their vaccines as soon as they can.

"I would really encourage anyone to get out there and get theirs and protect their community."

Dame Jackie Daniel, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals, attended the ribbon cutting, along with MPs John Stevenson of Carlisle, Mark Jenkinson of Workington and Neil Hudson of Penrith and the Borders.

Dame Jackie said: "This is really important, not just here in Carlisle but in Cumbria. I'm eternally grateful to everyone who has made this happen."