Our current projects

We believe everyone should have access to the best medical imaging. We invest in equipment, research and education to make this happen. Read about our successes and current projects here.

If you wish to donate, please just click on the donate button for a project and make sure you leave a comment in the additional comments part of the donation form to make clear which project you are wishing to donate to. Thank you for your support.

A New Dimension in Breast Screening

One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Survival for breast cancer is related to the stage of the disease at diagnosis. When diagnosed at its earliest stage,  most women with breast cancer will survive their disease for five years or more, compared with 3 in 20 women when the disease is diagnosed at a later stage.  New 3D scanning technology is available which can enable a more accurate diagnosis of breast cancer at an earlier stage. Cobalt want to provide patients with the best possible chance of early diagnosis, using technology like this to enable more effective treatment and ultimately save lives.

We would like to raise funds for a 3 dimensional mammography machine, a special breast biopsy device and equipment to undertake mammography with a special dye (contrast medium) which will help to greatly improve patient care. Under the direction of Professor Iain Lyburn we will use this equipment to continue to contribute to cutting edge national research.

Thirlestaine Breast Centre Signage
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    Breast Screening Facilities in Gloucestershire and surrounding counties

    Medical charity Cobalt has supported breast cancer services since the screening programme was launched in 1990, almost thirty years ago.  Our vision has been to provide leading edge breast facilities for Gloucestershire in partnership with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Cobalt, supported by a public appeal, purchased a building in 2007, which required extensive renovation and extension.  The Thirlestaine Breast Centre opened in 2009 and was one of the first in the UK to have fully digital imaging systems. This became a Centre of excellence for breast screening, diagnosis and care of breast cancer patients under one roof. The Breast Screening Programme in Gloucestershire is run by the NHS under the direction of Clinical Director, Professor Iain Lyburn.  The team at the Centre aims to reduce mortality from breast cancer by finding signs of the disease at an early stage.  

    Every year about 28,000 screening mammograms are taken in Gloucestershire. Any cases requiring recall for further evaluation are seen at Thirlestaine Breast Centre, which also sees an average of 125 new symptomatic patients a week.The clinic sees an average of 125 new symptomatic patients a week. The Centre has an eligible population of approximately 115,000 and screens women aged between 47-73. It is now approaching ten years since some of the equipment was purchased and imaging and treatment diagnostics have developed at a pace.   We need to continue to raise funds to support the Thirlestaine Breast Centre to ensure it has the latest state-of-the-art equipment for diagnosis including Three Dimension Mammography Equipment, Vacuum-assisted Breast Biopsy Equipment and a Contrast enhanced spectral mammography (CESM).

    Further details about the new equipment:

    Three Dimension Mammography Equipment (Digital Breast Tomosynthesis)

    Mammogram pictures are normally 2D but the new machine will provide 3D pictures, more like a hologram, of the whole of the breast which increases clarity. Three dimensional mammography (also known as Tomosynthesis) improves cancer detection by increasing the visibility of lesions which are very difficult or impossible to perceive on conventional imaging due to overlying tissue.

    • The new equipment is more accurate than conventional 2D mammograms.
    • The curved compression surface that mirror the shape of the breast improves the patient experience.
    • The desired piece of equipment is the industry’s fastest tomosynthesis scan, this reduces the chance of patient motion, which improves scan quality.
    • The equipment has been designed to improve visibility of fine details for greater diagnostic confidence and is approved for women with dense breast tissue.

    Costing:  3Dimensions Mammography System - 3D including ClarityHD high resolution 3D™ imaging and Intelligent 2D™ software license (2D images generated from 3D data set) at a cost of £243,000

    Vacuum-assisted Breast Biopsy Equipment

    Imaging studies such as mammogram and MRI, often along with physical exams of the breast, can lead clinicians to suspect that a person has breast cancer. However, the only way to know for sure is to take a sample of tissue from the suspicious area and examine it under a microscope. A biopsy is a procedure which removes a small piece of tissue from an area of concern in the body. Vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, is a newer way of performing breast biopsy. The equipment allows for a minimally invasive procedure and removes more tissue than a standard core biopsy increasing the chance of finding the correct diagnosis earlier in the patient journey. 

     Costing:  Affirm Breast Biopsy Guidance System and Tomo Biopsy software license costs £45,000

    Contrast enhanced spectral mammography (CESM)

    Contrast Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM) technology helps clarify mammography results, enabling clinicians to detect and diagnose cancer with more confidence - even in the densest part of the breast tissue more rapidly and accurately.  CESM is valuable for the evaluation of extent of disease in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and there are emerging roles in its use in assessing response of primary breast tumours to chemotherapy.

    Costings of I-View Contrast Enhanced 2D Imaging software £50,000

    Why is the government not funding this?

    As a medical charity we strive to improve and enhance facilities for the people in our community. Funding will help purchase equipment not ordinarily available within NHS budgets.  The equipment will be gifted to the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for use by NHS patients.

    ‘This equipment will make a significant difference to the care of thousands of local women every year during their assessment and investigation of potential breast cancer’

     Professor Iain Lyburn, Medical Director Cobalt and Consultant Radiologist

    Project Outcomes

    • We will be able to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage and enable more accurate detections.
    • Make treatment more effective and reduce unnecessary procedures.
    • Advance research into this important area using the latest equipment.
    • Ultimately deliver cost saving for the NHS.




Dementia Futures Fund

One of our charitable objectives is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of dementia. In 2016 we formed a partnership with the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust to develop the dementia diagnostic pathway using state-of-the-art imaging equipment and are also working to increase patient participation in research trials into new treatments.  

Dementia currently affects 850,000 people in the UK and it is only through research that we can determine the causes and develop effective treatments and improve care for patients, both existing and in the future. 

We are raising funds to support two dementia research nurses who work with doctors and patients to recruit patients onto national trials at the Fritchie Centre. Cobalt also support many of these trials with the state-of-the-art imaging equipment for patients. 

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    Clinical research involves many different departments external agencies and people.  The role of the research nurse is to mediate between these points of contact, all whilst encouraging and reassuring patients participating in the study.   The care that this role offers means that patients have a familiar face guiding them through the process and that all necessary appointments are attended and data is accurate and collected at the right times.

    How you can help:

    The work Cobalt does in the field of dementia, from offering PET/CT scans to funding research nurse posts and necessary equipment costs the charity £150,000 every year.  Every donation counts towards this vital area of work.

    I am excited to be working with Cobalt Health on dementia research as every research project that we undertake, is a step to bring us closer to preventing, treating and caring for people with dementia.

    I really love all aspects of my job but the best part is meeting and talking to the patients.

    Liz WalkerSenior Research Nurse Practitioner.

    2gether Trust

    Expected outcomes:

    A growing number of dementia patients participating in trials will contribute to improved standards of care for dementia and Alzheimer's disease at a local level, whilst also contributing to the wider health research environment nationally and internationally, by yielding results that lead to better diagnosis and treatment for all in the future.

    Please help to continue to support this valuable service for local dementia patients and future generations through the valuable research output.


Teenage and Young Adults with Cancer (TYA) Specialist Nurse post

The issue:

The impact of a cancer diagnosis on children and families can be immense. Young cancer patients have unique biological, physiological and social needs during treatment which are distinct from other cancer patients. For teenagers and young adults, traditionally little care has put into place that delivers according to their specific needs, with patients often either treated alongside children of a younger age, or with adults.

Cobalt's role:

The Cobalt TYA Cancer Nurse ensures that an appropriate framework, meeting the needs of young adult cancer patients, is established at a time when they are most vulnerable. Megan Willsher was appointed as the Cobalt TYA Cancer Nurse in June 2011 and is based at Cheltenham General Hospital, linking with colleagues in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Birmingham; she is one of only five TYA Cancer Specialist Nurses in the South West.


‘My role ensures these patients are supported throughout their cancer journey and beyond, helping them to move forward with their life, as they would have without the intrusion of cancer.’ Megan Willsher, Cobalt Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Nurse

‘I am grateful to Megan and to Cobalt for funding the job she does. She has been such a great support.’ Samantha (Patient)

How you can help:

The cost of providing this service is £28,000 per year. Please help to continue to support this valuable service for young cancer patients.

What we've achieved

Read about some of our success stories here.

  • New 3.0 Tesla MRI Scanner

    Thanks to huge community fundraising and the support of Trusts, Foundations and corporate partners, a new 3.0 Tesla scanner has now been successfully installed. 

    The new scanner has all the latest software and scanning sequences to ensure we continue to offer the very best high-definition specialist neurology and musculoskeletal images for all our clinical and research patients, both now and well into the future.

    The scanner has been designed with a much wider bore, which makes it a more comfortable experience for claustrophobic and larger patients and the scanning times are generally shorter. 

    The patient’s experience has been improved through the provision of ambient lighting in the scanning room and  a relaxing new ‘in bore’ patient experience system.  The ambient lighting and computer system aims to reduce anxiety and enables patients to control a relaxing environment of their choice whilst having their scan. Three innovative elements, the visual experience, comforting guidance, and reduced noise have been combined.


    Donor Recognition

    Over £200,000 in donations were raised for the new MRI scanner. This includes donations from the following Charitable Trusts: The Charles Irving Trust, The Pink Ribbon Foundation, Blakemore Foundation, RV J Cadbury Trust, The Dent-Brocklehurst Family Trust, Princess Anne’s Charities Trust Albert Hunt Trust, the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire, Philip Smith’s Charitable Trust, Renishaw Charities Committee, RJ Shaw Trust, Cainscross Parish council and The Hobson Charity. We are also very grateful to the Nationwide Building Society who helped raise £10,000 towards the MRI Scanner Appeal.

  • Funding for MRI Research Facility - ITM Imaging Centre

    Cobalt has established a vital MRI research facility that was needed for a leading research centre, The Institute of Translational Medicine (ITM) at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham (QEHB). The ITM is a strategic alliance between the University of Birmingham and three major teaching hospitals; the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

    MRI scanners at the hospitals were being used purely for clinical need and due to high demand, vital research was not being undertaken. The project was made possible through fundraising activities, your donations and the generous support of Trusts and Foundations and represents a real partnership between the Hospital, University and charity Cobalt that will progress the very latest scientific research findings for a collaborative network of clinicians, academics and industry partners. 

    The Centre was officially opened in April 2017 by Dr Nicola Strickland, President of the Royal College of Radiologists and Clive Richards OBE. In attendance were The Right Worshipful, The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Carl Rice, Dame Julie Moore Chief Executive University Hospital Birmingham, Rt Hon Jacqui Smith Chair of UHB, Cobalt CEO Peter Sharpe and Cobalt Medical Director, Professor Iain Lyburn.

    The event was supported by a series of talks from various partners including a guest speaker from the USA, Dr, John Wald MD, Associate Professor of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA.

    Peter Sharpe, Cobalt’s CEO said at the opening  ‘This is an exciting new chapter for Cobalt and important day for research. This development will ultimately provide access to a wide range of more effective, targeted treatments and a personalised approach to healthcare. This has been a great example of where the NHS, a charity and a university can work closely together for the benefit of the patient. We are incredibly grateful to the Trusts, Foundations and other supporters that have invested in this project.’



    Donor Recognition

    We are grateful to The Clive and Sylvia Richards Charity for being our principal investors and for supporting this project. 

    In addition we were able to secure funding from:

    The Eranda Foundation

    The Bernard Piggott Charitable Trust

    The Rowlands Trust

    The P F Charitable Trust

    The Eveson Trust

    The Gordon Gray Trust

    Spirax Sarco Charitable Trust

    The Saintbury Trust

    We are also grateful to our anonymous donors.



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