With increasing pressures on the clinical workforce, Cancer Support Workers (CSW) are in a unique position to work alongside healthcare professionals to provide high quality personalised care and support to patients throughout the diagnostic pathway, through to treatment and follow up. These roles help to provide people with choice and control over their mental and physical health and have assisted clinical teams to deliver more efficient patient care and improve patient experience.
Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance (CMCA) has continued to invest in CSW’s (level 4) during the last three years, with roles tailored to pathways and to ensure maximum benefit based on local need. CMCA has developed a competency framework and associated training sessions and on-going development opportunities in collaboration with oncology educators and staff working in primary, secondary care and social care. These align with national guidelines so that staff can operate within their scope of practice alongside healthcare professionals.
Read some case studies from the Alliance’s Cancer Support Workers:
Cassandra Garner, CSW at Southport NHS Trust
“I see first-hand how cancer care is improving by personalising care to meet the multitude of needs that need to be addressed throughout post-treatment surveillance. Clinical needs and diagnostics now follow an optimal pathway with results being relayed to patients in a more timely manner reducing the anxieties that can occur. The role of the support worker allows continuity of care and better relationships between acute primary care settings. Patients feel empowered because they know there is a support network that is easily accessed if it’s ever needed.
Education plays a huge part in a patient’s ability to self-manage and through stratified follow up we can to deliver a tailor-made educational package to all patients giving them the means and knowledge to ensure that they are both mentally and physically well. I am incredibly proud of what I do and feel this role is extremely rewarding, it is a privilege to be involved with the future of cancer follow up and personalised care and the improvements being facilitated across our Cancer Alliance".
Gill Kitto, Urology CSW at Whiston Hospital
“Information ward rounds are a part of my role, I introduce myself to patients prior to discharge and offer my contact number and any non-clinical help they may need once home.
One man was reluctant to go home, but after we spoke and I promised to phone him he agreed to go. We spoke the next day and I offered a free 12 week therapy course for him to attend as he never really went out.
Each week he phoned me to say how wonderful it was how he enjoyed it. He told me it had changed his life and made him feel much more confident about going out and meeting people, his wife also expressed her gratitude to me.”
Laura Williams, Lung CSW at Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS Trust
“I reviewed a lady on the ward who had surgery for a presumed primary lung cancer. I started by focusing on how she was doing physically. She said she wasn’t in much pain and had been sleeping well and moving around off the ward.
I then asked how she was feeling emotionally or if she had been feeling down. This subject caused visible upset in the patient and she said that there were a lot of things going on in her family that she didn’t want to talk about. I explained to her we didn’t have to talk about her family if she didn’t want. I asked her how long she had been feeling depressed for and she said it had been a number of years. I asked whether she generally had more ‘good days’ than ‘bad days’ and she felt like most days were ‘bad days’. She said she ‘did not want to be here anymore’ so I asked if she had thought about harming herself. She said she had, so I asked if she had any plans which she said she didn’t. She opened up to me about her family situation which included her sister passing away and some family tension.
Although she was on medication for her mental health, we had a discussion around whether she felt talking to a counsellor would help which she felt like it would. I gave her information on Talk Liverpool which is talking therapies based on CBT. I asked her to have a read through over the weekend and said I would call her on Monday and I would refer her if she wanted. I also gave her some information on Sunflowers cancer centre. I explained to her that whilst I was aware she did not yet have her histology back she could access the centre if she had been affected by cancer in any way e.g. if a friend or family member had ever had it. She would be able to attend counselling as well as group sessions and free complimentary therapies to help her relax. She said she felt better for discussing these issues and was looking forward to me giving her a call on the Monday.”