Enormous challenges lie ahead for cancer care and a properly resourced and supported cancer care workforce will be required to tackle the huge effects of the pandemic on people diagnosed with cancer.
Five years ago, Macmillan Cancer Support started a programme of investment that aimed to improve personalised care and support for people diagnosed with cancer across South and Mid Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire. The Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme concludes this month and has published its final evaluation report which highlights the benefits of the £5 million programme for people diagnosed with cancer, as well as the region’s cancer care workforce.
The Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme involved many partners to make best use of resources and expertise, including the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System, South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance, the voluntary and community sector and six of the region’s Hospital Trusts. In addition, people affected by cancer were involved from the start of the programme and embedded in the decision-making process, with any funding decisions having to be approved by the programme’s Patient Advisory Board; a group of people affected by cancer.
The improvements in cancer care and support have been far reaching and include the recruitment of new support roles, improvements in IT coordination, establishing patient support groups and providing the cancer workforce with learning and development opportunities.
One significant development to personalised cancer care and support has been the recruitment of 43 Macmillan Cancer Support Workers across the region. Macmillan invested over £2.5 million in the recruitment of the Cancer Support Workers, the roles support the emotional, financial and psychological impacts of a cancer diagnosis, as well as helping patients and their loved ones navigate the health and social care system. The Cancer Support Workers also have the added advantage of freeing up the specialist nurse’s time, allowing them to concentrate on the more clinically complex patients.
Macmillan’s final evaluation report found that each Macmillan Cancer Support Worker role generated over £23,000 in annual savings, by taking on non-clinical tasks and freeing up valuable time for cancer teams. The tasks included being the first point of contact for patients and dealing quickly with low-level enquiries and concerns. The evaluation report highlights that Macmillan Cancer Support Workers save over two hours of their colleague’s time per day - that’s four days a fortnight, amounting to 96 days per year.
Vitally, the Macmillan Cancer Support Workers acted as an ongoing source of support and information through the coronavirus pandemic, as many cancer teams were redeployed during the first wave of the crisis.
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, praised the response of the regions’ 43 Macmillan Cancer Support Workers, she said:
“The Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme holds the gold standard for the level of personalised cancer care and support we would expect our loved ones to receive after a diagnosis of cancer.
“Five years ago we could never have imagined that the Macmillan programme would be concluding in the midst of an international pandemic but one thing is clear, the 43 Macmillan Cancer Support Workers ensured the continuation of vital support for people throughout the crisis.
“There has never been a worse time to receive a diagnosis of cancer, but the Macmillan Cancer Support Workers were able to take some of that stress and worry away by continuing to offer emotional and practical support.
“The legacy of the Macmillan programme will be felt by people living with cancer for years to come and it’s fantastic that our partners in the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance have embedded the programme learning and are committed to delivering excellence in personalised cancer care and support.”
The aim of the five-year Macmillan programme was to ensure people diagnosed with cancer received personalised cancer care and support. This is achieved when a healthcare professional has a meaningful conversation with a patient about their needs at diagnosis, together with a plan of what to do next. The Macmillan final evaluation found that the proportion of respondents stating that personalised cancer care and support had a positive impact on their quality of life was much higher amongst those who had a meaningful conversation (85%) than those who didn’t (34%).
Macmillan worked in partnership with the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (SYB ICS), a partnership of NHS partners and statutory bodies to coordinate health and care services, meeting the health and care needs of 1.5 million people. Des Breen is the Medical Director of the SYB ICS and co-chair of the region’s Cancer Alliance he said:
“The Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme has changed peoples’ attitudes to how we wrap care around the patient. Only patients can tell you what they need, and we’ve shifted from ‘what’s the matter with you?’ to ‘what matters to you?’
“I can’t think of a better example of personalised care and support than this programme, the Cancer Support Workers have been invaluable to our cancer services throughout the pandemic and we will continue to build on many aspects of this programme as we work to recover cancer care across the region.”
Richard Metcalfe is the Macmillan Programme Lead, he has worked on the Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme for five years, he said:
“There is a difference between saying we’re going to improve cancer care and support and actually doing it - the final evaluation report illustrates the positive impact of the programme on our regions cancer services.
“The strengths of the Macmillan programme lie in the energy and determination of the people involved, our NHS partners, the voluntary and community sector and people affected by cancer, who came together with a desire to improve cancer care.
“The legacy of the Macmillan programme will be that charitable investment was used to build resilience into our regional health system, because we understood where the investment was needed.
“Macmillan investment allowed for local flexibility, this was complemented by the ability to learn from other areas, both helped to accelerate progress and build support, creating a sense of momentum across the region.
“The final evaluation report shows not only a continuation of personalised care and support during the pandemic, but an increase in numbers compared to the same period last year, this is testament to all the healthcare professionals working under immense stress to continue cancer care and support.
“We’ve come a long way in five years, significantly weathering an international pandemic and continuing vital support, but we know there’s still work to do. We must build on the foundations of the Macmillan programme to ensure widespread adoption of personalised cancer care and support.”
The work of the Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme will be continued by the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance, who have built many of the programme structures and networks, including the Patient Advisory Board, into their day to day work. The work will continue to meet the national NHS England target that every person diagnosed with cancer will receive personalised care and support by 2030.