Forth Valley Cancer Service Celebrates 10th Anniversary

A specialist service which has given support to over 4,000 cancer patients and their families in Forth Valley is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Originally set up as a pilot project with funding from Macmillan Cancer Support, the Macmillan One to One service proved so successful it has now become a permanent service fully funded by NHS Forth Valley.

The community-based team receive referrals from oncology teams as well as many other local health and social care services and the voluntary sector. They provide valuable psychological, practical and social support to people affected by cancer, liaising mainly with the Oncology Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, but also with oncology teams in other locations such as the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and the Edinburgh Cancer Centre at the Western General Hospital. The overall aim of the team is to maximise quality of life for those affected by cancer by carrying out a Holistic Needs Assessment which allows nurses to focus on individual concerns and issues from the first home visit.

Key successes of the service over the last decade include forging extremely good professional relationships with colleagues, including Clinical Nurse Specialists, Consultants, GPs as well as local council partners across Forth Valley and beyond.  The service has also organised a number of health and wellbeing events and coffee ‘drop ins’ to encourage patients and their loved ones to come together for an informal chat and company.

Jane Niblo, Manager of the Macmillan One to One service in Forth Valley, says the personal touch is most effective. She explained: “Patients feel that when they see us in their homes, they can ask us any difficult questions.

“Many people feel overwhelmed after diagnosis and treatment and are worried for the future and their families. They have never experienced anything like this before and it can be very traumatic and overwhelming for them.

“We can help normalise some of their concerns and reassure them that people in similar positions often feel exactly the same. With more and more people surviving cancer and living with the disease as a long-term condition, it is vital that we begin building cancer care teams which reflect these needs.”

Over the years, the Macmillan One to One team has adapted how they deliver the service to accommodate increasing referrals and meet an ongoing rise in demand. Currently, over 500 patients are referred to the service each year and the team has also seen an increase in the complexity of support required and a significant increase in psychological distress in recent years.

To ease anxiety and improve quality of life, the team also aims to provide practical and person-centred solutions. For example, they helped a patient with renal cancer make adaptations to their home and arranged a marriage for two long term partners when time was short. They also made a lasting legacy for a local man by arranging to have a bench in his name at the site he used to busk.

There are almost three million people in the UK living with and beyond cancer and this number is predicted to rise to nearly 3.5 million by 2025 and 4 million by 2030. Advances in treatments means that people are living longer with cancer and, whilst this is good news, there is also evidence that at least a quarter of people have unmet needs following treatment.

Macmillan believes that a cancer patient’s individual needs are best met through a mix of professionals making up the cancer workforce so people can see the right person, with the right skills and knowledge, at the right time. The Forth Valley service means cancer patients not only have access to a team of cancer specialists, but also a dedicated follow up team who can answer questions and provide information, advice and support.