Pioneering emergency cancer service marks five-year milestone

A pioneering service based at Southampton's teaching hospitals which provides emergency assessment and care for people with cancer has marked its five-year milestone.

The Macmillan acute oncology service at Southampton General Hospital is an initiative developed and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support in partnership with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS).

The team provides emergency telephone triage, advice, assessments and treatment to people who need urgent care as a result of their cancer.

The service also works closely with other departments across the trust to ensure that any patient who has a confirmed or suspected cancer diagnosis but is admitted for another reason is seen by a cancer specialist within 24 hours.

Since 2011, the service has evolved from a Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm resource with six staff who handled 150 calls a month, to a 24/7 operation with 28 staff dealing with an average of 480 calls a month.

Since 2012, the team has conducted 8,331 patient reviews and triaged 15,564 calls.

Katie Hudson, an advanced nurse practitioner who has been in post for two years, said: "As an ANP, I talk to patients over the phone and triage their calls and decide whether they need to come in for assessment or if they can remain at home with primary care support.

"We also complete medical clerking, order investigations and diagnostics and look at treatment plans; the service means patients have one point of contact so they don’t need to keep repeating themselves and often feel more able to share any worries or concerns because they’re speaking to a familiar person."

Katie’s mum was sadly diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer in September last year and is among those accessing the service.

"As her daughter and carer I see her daily to administer injections and then I see her here at work when she comes for treatment once a week," she explained.

"If she needs me she knows I’m here, but it’s also a great comfort knowing she’s in the best possible hands with my colleagues in the Macmillan acute oncology service who I know and trust."

Katie added: "I never wanted to know what it felt like to be a relative – no-one does – but I think it’s made me a better nurse. I can’t change the outcome for people, but I do understand the feelings they are experiencing and I can do my best to deliver news or support in the most sensitive way.

"My mum was also a nurse here at Southampton General Hospital and cared for her mother when she died of cancer; now I’m here, walking the same corridors and I only hope I can be an ounce of the person she is and make her proud of me - she’s amazing."

All practitioners within the service are on the advanced nurse practitioner pathway, which means they are developing advanced skills such as history-taking, diagnostics and non-medical prescribing so that patients don’t need to wait to see a doctor.

This, in turn, helps to speed up processes and helps to improve patient experience and outcomes.

Vicki Havercroft, matron for palliative and end of life care, was instrumental in developing the service.

Speaking at an event to celebrate five years in operation, she said: "I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved.

"The staff are so committed to patient care and, since day one, it’s been ever expanding and developing.

"It has meant that this patient group are seen much quicker, by designated specialists, and they’re not ending up waiting for hours in A&E to see the right person."

She added: "Our patients know that there is just one port of call, they’ll know the person at the end of the phone which is so important when they’re already going through so much."

For more information on Macmillan's services and support, visit www.macmillan.org.uk.
Posted on Wednesday 8 June 2016