FOR 15 years Banbury resident Steven Berry has woken at 4.30am, three times a week to travel to Oxford for renal dialysis.

The 60-mile round trip to the city’s Churchill Hospital meant he was out the door at 5.45am and back home at 2.30pm.

But yesterday his journey was little over five minutes as he became the first patient to use The Horton General Hospital’s new dialysis unit.

He and wife Miranda have campaigned for three years for the £100,000 unit to save people in the north of the county tiring journeys to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

The Kenilworth Way father-of-three left home at 6.45am for four hours of treatment from 7am to 11pm and was back by 11.30am.

The 54-year-old – who was later joined by four other patients yesterday morning – said: “It is better than winning the lottery.”

He added: “I am not so tired, I feel a lot better.

“I will be able to do things I could not do before.

“I can get on with my garden and take the dog for a walk.”

He said of his wife of 36 years, whose efforts included a 500 signature petition: “I am really proud of her.”

Mr Berry suffers from nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disease where blood protein leaks into the urine. Dialysis filters this out.

Mrs Berry, 52, said: “It was absolutely brilliant, it has made such a difference.”

Previously, Mr Berry was picked up by volunteer transport for a session from 8am to midday.

But Mrs Berry said: “He had to wait around for transport for all the other patients.

“It could have been anything from over an hour which was causing a lot of stress.”

Mrs Berry added: “Before, he was so tired and washed out with waiting and the dialysis.

“You can see the difference in him straight away. He is much happier.”

The machines, staffed by two new nurses, are in the hospital’s former medical assessment unit, which has moved to Mulberry Ward.

It will initially take 10 patients a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and this will increase to 21 in six weeks for Monday to Saturday. Most patients need dialysis three days a week.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust bosses said the unit could expand to meet an expected growth in demand.

Matron for dialysis Allie Thornley said: “I know how much of a difference it makes to the patients to be able to get to and from treatment quickly. We had patients who were able to walk to their treatment rather than spend time travelling to and from the Churchill.”

Patients using the new unit will come from Chipping Norton up to Brackley. Bicester patients will continue to go to Oxford.