Early cancer hospitals in Liverpool

In 1862 James Seaton Smyth, a prominent surgeon originally from Ireland, established the Liverpool Hospital for Cancer and Diseases of the Skin on Roscoe Street. When he died in 1869 he bequeathed £10,000 to the institution. 

The hospital moved to new premises on Myrtle Street in 1882. It was at this site that radiation therapy was first used to treat cancer in Liverpool, after scientific discoveries in the early twentieth century led to X-rays and radium being used in medicine.

In 1930 the hospital became known as The Liverpool Radium Institute and Hospital for Cancer.

Relocation to Wirral

In the 1950s the decision was made to move cancer services from Liverpool to Wirral, with a new Regional Radiotherapy Centre being established at Clatterbridge.

The site – originally the location of a workhouse and infectious diseases clinic – was already home to Clatterbridge Hospital. Part of the site had been used as barracks and a prisoner of war camp during World War II.

The Radiotherapy Centre, which opened in 1958, consisted of a purpose-built treatment unit containing the Mullard linear accelerator, an operating theatre, plus supporting facilities. Three wards, Dee, Weaver and Mersey, housed 70 beds in converted military huts.


Decades of expansion

The story of our Wirral hospital is one of continuous development to meet the needs of the local population. Additional treatment machines were installed to increase capacity, along with planning and dose calculation facilities. 

By 1974 purpose-built wards with more beds had replaced most of the old huts and new extensions housed an outpatients department, a new theatre and research unit. The first modern simulator also arrived that year. The centre changed its name to the Mersey Regional Centre for Radiotherapy and Oncology.

In 1980 cancer research at Clatterbridge was boosted by the construction of dedicated laboratories following a fundraising campaign. This was part of a period of major investment resulting in the installation of new treatment machines, including a cyclotron, a radiotherapy machine used to treat rare eye cancers using a low-energy proton beam.

We remain the only centre offering this specialist treatment – the facility is called National Centre for Eye Proton Therapy. 

By the 1990s the Wirral site had five linear accelerators, CT and MRI, two simulators and a gamma camera. Our doctors began to see patients in clinics across the region and in 1992, after structural changes to the NHS, our name changed again to Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS Trust.


Bringing treatment closer to patients – new sites and treatment at home

In the late 2000s and 2010s we took significant steps to bring services closer to patients in the north of Merseyside.

In 2007 a dedicated chemotherapy clinic, the Marina Dalglish Centre, opened within Aintree University Hospital. The centre was part-funded by the Marina Dalglish Appeal, a charity founded by former breast cancer patient Marina Dalglish.

Four years later we welcomed our first patients to Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Aintree, a completely new facility for radiotherapy and outpatient services.

In 2015, after a successful pilot, we expanded the Clatterbridge in the Community programme. This pioneering service enables suitable patients to receive treatments in the comfort of their own homes.

Transforming cancer care

The most significant development in our history came after a detailed review of local cancer services recommended construction of a new specialist cancer hospital in Liverpool city centre. Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool opened in 2020 after eight years of consultation, planning and construction. The £162m project was funded by the NHS and government, with additional funding from The New Cancer Hospital Appeal.

All inpatient care was transferred from Wirral to the new 11-storey hospital, which has 110 ensuite rooms. The state-of-the-art facility provides chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and other treatments, alongside an array of services, including diagnostics and imaging, outpatients, a Teenage and Young Adult Unit and cancer support and rehabilitation. 

The opening of the hospital also saw blood and solid tumour cancer services in Liverpool united in one facility, three years after management of haemato-oncology transferred from the Royal Liverpool and Aintree hospitals to Clatterbridge.

Pioneering research

Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool is based in the heart of Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter, next to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the University of Liverpool, enabling us to expand our cancer research activities, including a large portfolio of clinical trials.

Since the opening of the hospital we have joined important research collaborations, including Liverpool Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre with the University of Liverpool, a Biomedical Research Centre with The Royal Marsden in London, and working within Liverpool Clinical Research Facility, hosted by Liverpool University Hospitals.

Community diagnostic centres

As part of a national programme aimed at increasing diagnostic capacity, we opened Clatterbridge Diagnostics at our Wirral site in 2021, in partnership with Wirral University Teaching Hospital. Two years later in 2023 we opened Paddington Community Diagnostic Centre in Liverpool.

These centres offer earlier access to diagnostics for a wide range of conditions, as well as those who may have cancer.