Changing cancer care and support in Tayside

Cancer can be a very confusing and worrying time for people and, as a health professional, I have had many patients tell me they don’t know where to go for support.

Some don’t want to bother their busy clinical teams with worries or questions between hospital appointments. For many others their biggest worries aren’t medical at all, but are financial, emotional or practical.

We launched our Transforming Care After Treatment project in Tayside last year as we wanted to make sure that from the time of a cancer diagnosis through to following on from when a person’s treatment comes to an end, patients and families affected by cancer in the area were given the information, support and access to the services to help them feel in control and lead as normal a life as possible.

Working in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and local services, the project has seen 16 members of staff trained to assess the support needs of cancer patients and then writing a plan which will outline what care and support they will get.

A series of community health and well-being events have also been held in Angus, Dundee and Perth. These events are designed to help people access the support and information they need in one place, with information, financial advice, emotional support, practical support and expert medical care offered under one roof.

One of these, ‘Living Well After Bowel Cancer,’ was held in Perth in March to help patients to feel more in control of their own health. It was also a chance for people affected by cancer to find the information they need and access the support services they want, both on the day and in subsequent weeks and months.

More than 60 people attended the free event to listen to a range of talks and visit one of the sixteen stalls to find out how to keep well, improve their fitness and cope with both physical, financial and emotional aspects of cancer and its treatment.

Attendees also took advantage of attending one to one sessions with professionals including a dietician, colorectal nurse and a Macmillan Welfare Rights Officers and a workshop on mindfullness.

Many people said how good it was to meet others who had similar experience and it was good to know that they were not alone.

There was a real buzz about the afternoon and it really brought home to me, how important these events are. Project workers will take on board all the feedback and intend to organise a similar event in the Autumn.

Since its launch, our project has raised awareness of the need for change in cancer after care in Tayside and the surrounding area, with lots of staff and services attending stakeholder events. And whilst it is still early days for cultural shift, some staff have reported they have changed the process of the clinics they run and have begun to ensure that the focus of their care is on the individual rather that the illness.

by Helen Dryden

Helen is the TCAT Project lead for the Tayside Transforming Care After Treatment Project. Her job finds her working with a range of groups, meeting staff, providing training and support to look at how we can focus on recovery by spreading the word about the importance of transforming care after cancer treatment. She also  joins up some of the great services already out there in the community and making sure that patients, family and staff know about them.

Find out more about the Transforming Care After Treatment programme and its projects across Scotland.