When the Improving Cancer Journey (ICJ) service was launched in Glasgow two years ago, two ladies gave speeches about how their lives had been affected by cancer; one from the point of view of a carer and one from the perspective of a patient.
Both described the impact that a cancer diagnosis had had on their lives; the struggle they had had accessing the services they needed, the loneliness and the isolation, the worry, the fear and the financial impact on their lives. The speeches were really moving, and the issues they experienced were the kind of problems that the service was looking to address.
ICJ provides direct assistance, advice and information to people affected by cancer in the city. It is offered to everybody at point of their cancer diagnosis and aims to make sure that the care provided is always patient led and established through robust holistic assessment, using the Macmillan Recovery Package.
Two years on, and we have contacted just under 3,000 people in Glasgow who have had a new cancer diagnosis. Each person has been supported by a dedicated Link Officer who works with them to identify their concerns and agrees pathway of support.
We have processed more than 1,500 referrals to the service and identified a staggering 7,000 concerns, resulting in more than 4,400 onward referrals to other support services across the city.
We are proud to say that more than 40% of the people we have identified as carers have been referred on for a formal statutory carer’s assessment, compared to the national average of just 5%.
ICJ clients have also accessed more than £1.2 million in additional benefits.
Over the past two years we have learned a lot about the effectiveness of partnership working and the existence of community assets that were potentially underutilised.
ICJ has not introduced a new structure to meet or address our clients concerns; these community assets were already available in Glasgow. It is down to the vital role of the Link Officers which has enabled people to access support in a much more efficient way. Their knowledge of the local and national support services has been crucial in the success of the project – as no one agency can provide the level of support that each person will require and this responsibility is more effective when it’s shared.
Through ICJ, other, smaller projects have developed: The Macmillan Café at The Pearce Institute, three Macmillan vocational gardens, the establishment of an energy funding scheme for our clients and the addition of a Housing Professional to our team. This team have a firm belief that anything is possible and that none of our clients concerns are out with the scope of this project.
One of the most surprising aspects of the project has to be the level of unmet need that has been uncovered. Almost everybody coming through the service has identified between six and eight additional concerns other than health, such as caring responsibilities, housing issues, spiritual issues, financial concerns, employment and worry about the future.
With this in mind, the coming months find us working with our patient reference group to help to guide ICJ’s future developments. For example patient transport has been highlighted as an issue and we are now working with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to improve the availability of a transport system that fully meets the needs of patients, their family members and carers.
It is difficult to imagine Glasgow without ICJ and frightening to imagine just what would have happened to all of those people had they not had the dedicated support to address these multiple concerns.
It is clear to see as well, the positive impact the service has had on people’s lives – when asked, 81% of people said the service had improved their quality of life. 79% said it had helped them regain control and almost 93% agreed it had reduced their feelings of isolation.
And, after all that I have witnessed in the past 24 months, including the organisation of a wedding in a few short days, a young mother and her four children re-housed just two days before Christmas and a family reunited through partnership working with the Red Cross after several years apart, I just hope the service continues to grow and help people who need it.
by Debbie Young
Debbie Young is the ICJ manager in Glasgow.
Follow the ICJ project on Twitter: @ICJ_Glasgow