Almost 200,000 people in Scotland are living with and beyond cancer and in just 15-years that’s likely to have almost doubled.
Some of this is down to increased numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer, but it’s also a result of more people surviving the illness – a testament to improved cancer treatment.
While this is good news, for a great many people it’s not as simple as being cured and then getting back to normal. For many, here are lasting consequences of their cancer, and living with these is much like living with any long term condition.
These consequences can be physical problems, like incontinence, extreme fatigue and pain. They can be emotional, from anxiety to clinical depression. For some, the impact of cancer can also be financial whilst for others it can leave them with a great many practical difficulties, from being unable to leave the house alone to struggling to wash or cook for themselves.
It’s clear the problems cancer brings can no longer be solved within hospital walls. Those who’ve had a cancer diagnosis need a huge variety of support, from help at home to benefits advice, to help them live their lives as fully as possible.
But whilst patients finishing treatment may be given a number to call if they have medical worries, there are few places which routinely ask patients about the help they need dealing with all the other impacts cancer has had on their lives.
With £5m of funding from Macmillan Cancer Support, TCAT helps to design services that are more tailored to the needs, preferences and priorities of individual patients. It is hoped that by testing new ways of delivering care and support to people with cancer during and after treatment, ones which receive positive feedback from patients will become sustained and embedded in everyday practice, improving the overall support cancer patients in Scotland receive.
Now halfway through its five year life-span, there are currently 25 TCAT pilot projects taking place within the NHS and local authorities across the country. All are unique, but each project includes at least one of four key components: holistic needs assessment and care planning; end of treatment summaries; cancer care reviews; and health and wellbeing events.
These components are all designed to improve the aftercare experience of the patient and to work successfully all require much greater communication and collaboration between health and social care services. Patients also play a key role in the delivery and design of TCAT, deciding which projects should go ahead and providing feedback about their experiences.
By providing the opportunity for cancer networks, health boards, local authorities and third sector organisations to work together it is hoped that the new ways of delivering services to people affected by cancer could become sustained and embedded in everyday practice, improving the overall support they are receiving.
It is hoped the results of the pilots will act as a significant stepping stone to meeting the needs of those affected by cancer in Scotland after their treatment ends with the learnings used to transform cancer care services across Scotland.
by Gordon McLean
Gordon is the National Programme Manager for the Transforming Care After Treatment Programme (TCAT) in Scotland. He is a member of the TCAT board, which helps to oversee the delivery of the 25 TCAT pilot projects across the country.