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New service to improve care for people with cancer


A new service launched today (9 March 2016) will improve the treatment of people with cancer. The new Acute Oncology Service will focus on the care of people with cancer who need to attend hospital, often at night or at the weekend, because of complications of their illness or its treatment.

All Trusts in Northern Ireland are introducing the service at the same time and this is the first area in the UK to establish acute oncology services on a regional basis.

The Service has been established in partnership by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Public Health Agency (PHA) and Macmillan Cancer Support who has invested £1 million over the next four years to fund seven Macmillan Acute Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialists across all Trusts.

Speaking at the launch of the new Acute Oncology Service, which was held today in Craigavon Area Hospital, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board, Valerie Watts said: “People with cancer in Northern Ireland receive high quality care, which may include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, from very skilled and experienced members of staff. This new service will mean that when patients need to attend hospital for some emergency or unplanned management of their cancer they will receive the same high quality care as provided by their cancer consultant.”

Mrs Watts added: “We have utilised modern technology to provide the much needed information for hospital doctors and nurses. As part of this innovative approach, guidelines for the management of patients who require acute oncology care have been developed as a mobile APP for smartphones. We are keen for staff to access and use the APP.”

Mr Samuel Keers from Dromore has had personal experience of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust’s acute oncology service and said:

“The care I received was second to none. I contacted the helpline after having chemotherapy because I felt very unwell and had a high temperature. The team arranged for me to attend the chemotherapy unit where I was seen by a doctor and nurse from the acute oncology team who arranged investigations for me.

“My admission was arranged and I was seen daily until my discharge a few days later. When you are receiving chemotherapy, it can be very frightening if you feel unwell, but knowing this service is in place has provided me with great reassurance and confidence to continue my treatment.”

Leading the regional group responsible for introducing the service, Dr Miriam McCarthy, from the PHA explained: “Each Trust will now have medical and nursing staff who will provide expert advice on the care of patients experiencing complications of their cancer. This is a really worthwhile development and I have been privileged to work with a very committed team, including Trust staff, patient representatives and Macmillan to develop the service and all the pathways and protocols involved to support the introduction of acute oncology services. We are extremely grateful to Macmillan for working in partnership with us and providing generous financial support to allow for the recruitment of nurses in each Trust.”

Heather Monteverde, Macmillan’s Head of Services in Northern Ireland, said the cancer charity has been very impressed by the amount of work undertaken to ensure a regional approach to the new acute oncology service.

She added: “Macmillan is delighted to work with the HSCB, PHA and Trusts, and to have the opportunity to support this development. People living with cancer may need emergency care for many reasons. Some may be experiencing complications or severe side effects of their treatment. Others may not even know they have cancer and end up being diagnosed in the Emergency Department, after developing acute symptoms.

“This important service will reduce the need for some cancer patients to be admitted to hospital and help those who are admitted to return home sooner. It will provide patients with the right support and the right information and reassure them that they are receiving specialist cancer care.”

The development of the APP has been supported by a grant from Macmillan Cancer Support.