How Macmillan’s research shapes cancer support in Scotland

Research and evidence is a cornerstone of Macmillan’s work in Scotland. It helps us to understand the numbers, needs and experiences of people affected by cancer and thereby improve the quality of life for cancer patients across the country.

Having high quality data gives Macmillan insight into the reality of the challenges faced by cancer patients and the healthcare system that treats and supports them.

By carrying out evaluations of our programmes in Scotland we can check that the support to people affected by cancer is being provided in an effective the way it should be and that meets their needs.

From our Information and Support services in libraries to our award winning Improving the Cancer Journey programme in Glasgow, we want to make sure all our donations count.  It also means we understand who  is getting help, and when, and the impact the service is having on the lives of patients.

Supporting people affected by cancer is at the heart of what we do at Macmillan. But although we may have an idea of what help people need, we must make sure that what we provide is wanted in the communities where we work and fits with the local context.

This finds us measuring and understanding the impact cancer has on people and what needs are still unmet. We find out what their experiences are of treatment, diagnosis and recovery, and the impact the disease has on their life and the lives of those around them. The first ever Scottish Cancer Patient Experience Survey provides valuable insight into this experience.

In addition, other research found that whilst many people with cancer felt supported during their hospital treatment, the current healthcare system wasn’t as effective at giving people the care and support they needed after their treatment finished.

The same research also found that patients who had a Holistic Needs Assessments after their treatment ended felt that health care professionals better addressed their needs and concerns. These findings have helped to drive our national Transforming Care After Treatment programme, which now has had 25 pilot projects across the country.

By providing robust and meaningful data on the benefits of needs assessments and care plans for patients, and the positive impact of key services, we can see the extent to which people are being helped by what we do. This work also helps us work with policy makers and service providers to ensure that decisions are based on sound evidence.

As an increasing number of cancer patients in Scotland live longer after their diagnosis than before, it is more important than ever before to recognise the long-term impact the disease has on their lives and for us to be ready to adapt our services.

Evidence plays a crucial role in making this happen because it ensures that our services and programmes are maximising resources and achieving outcomes as best as they can be and that Macmillan is providing support and services which really help to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.

Judith Mabelis, Evidence Officer, Scotland