Macmillan Wales has invested more than £2.5m in innovative services to support care for cancer patients admitted to hospital in an emergency in Wales.
Since 2012, the charity has funded new acute oncology services in Cardiff and the Vale, Cwm Taf and Hywel Dda university health boards as well as an acute oncology clinical nurse specialist at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, which treats cancer patients from many parts of South Wales.
Macmillan has also invested in projects to support the services within the South Wales Cancer Network.
The acute oncology services are established in Cardiff and the Vale, Cwm Taf and Velindre and we are currently recruiting staff for the service in Hywel Dda in West Wales.
Macmillan funded these services as many patients are admitted to hospital for problems relating to their cancer.
The services aim to improve care for patients who become acutely unwell either because of their cancer or their cancer treatment as well as people who have a previously undiagnosed cancer and become acutely unwell and need hospital assessment and/or treatment as a result.
Our acute oncology professionals aim to ensure cancer patients in those circumstances get the right specialist support they need quickly to reduce the time they spend awaiting treatment and, ultimately, the time they need to spend in hospital.
Previously, before these services, patients may have been at risk of lengthy hospital stays and delays in receiving specialist assessment or treatment as there may be no resident cancer specialists at the hospital where they were being treated.
Patients benefit from the service through better experience, reduced length of stay at hospital, and having treatment and care in the most appropriate setting for their needs.
People who are being supported by these services include those with severe side effects from cancer treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, such as an infection or uncontrolled sickness, as well as people who are only diagnosed with cancer after being seen at hospital.
The services also support patients who hospital as a result of their cancer affecting their spines, a condition called metastatic spinal cord compression.
They enable them to be identified, assessed and treated by the right specialist more quickly, which will reduce the risk of permanent damage to their spines.
Another core part of each team’s function is to work with hospital staff who do not specialise in cancer to support them through information and education to identify potential problems and complications associated with cancer and its treatments.
The aim of this is to reduce the number of cancer patients who become acutely unwell.
When launching the service at Cwm Taf last winter, Dr Amit Benjamin, consultant physician and clinical lead for the acute oncology service at Cwm Taf said: “This year, 130,000 patients across Wales are living with and beyond cancer. This number is set to double by 2030.
“Our new acute oncology service will help us rise to that challenge and enable us to provide a faster, more effective service for our patients.”
Karen Wingfield, Macmillan Acute Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist at Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “This is an innovative and exciting development to be part of which will improve the patient's experience of cancer beyond the cancer centre.”
Macmillan’s £2.5m investment also included a review of chemotherapy services and a project to improve understanding and early identification and treatment of patients who developed metastatic spinal cord compression as a result of their cancer. Both projects were hosted by the South Wales Cancer Network.
One of the outcomes from the metastatic spinal cord compression project is a Macmillan-funded animation on metastatic spinal cord compression which is available in English and in Welsh and is being shown at some Welsh hospitals to raise awareness of the condition and its symptoms.
Gillian Knight, the Macmillan Lead Cancer nurse for the South Wales Cancer Network, said: “Having a co-ordinated, consistent approach to acute oncology service developments across Wales will ensure that when a cancer patient presents acutely unwell to the NHS that they can be assured of effective, high quality, rapid assessment and appropriate prompt management with improved outcomes and experience.”
Susan Morris, Head of Services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said: “Macmillan is delighted to have invested £2.5m in our acute oncology services in Wales working in partnership with health boards, the Cancer Network and Velindre NHS Trust to improve care for cancer patients.
“People living with cancer may need emergency care for many reasons including having severe side effects from their cancer, its treatment or because they are diagnosed with cancer after being seen at accident and emergency rather than being referred to a specialist after visiting their GP.
“These important services mean that cancer patients who are very unwell can have their care coordinated and access the treatment they need sooner, which will improve their overall care and experience.”
Macmillan can only fund services such as these thanks to the generosity of the public.
For information or support from Macmillan, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk.