“Sharing care between principal treatment centres and local hospitals is really important. There are only 19 principal treatment centres in the UK, and some families will travel for hundreds of miles to their nearest cancer ward.
“After the initial stages of treatment, a child may need daily chemotherapy as an outpatient. They will need blood tests and monitoring and if they get a fever they may need emergency care. In the South West, for example, families could face an eight hour round trip to their nearest cancer ward, from Cornwall to Bristol. It is exhausting. It’s expensive. It’s incredibly disruptive. They are away from their support networks. The parents may work or have other children, or they may be a single parent. All those things make it so much more advantageous to provide both inpatient and outpatient care closer to home. We want to make sure that both families and professionals have confidence in that care."
Safe care closer to home
“As an Oncology (cancer) nurse, I have spoken to families who were anxious about the limited expertise and experience of staff at their local hospitals. It is a less specialist environment. On the Oncology units at the principal treatment centres, all the professionals are specialists in cancer care. That includes the doctors, the nurses, even the dieticians, physiotherapists and pharmacists. In shared care hospitals, the nurses do an incredible job and have to be knowledgeable and experienced in all kinds of conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis etc. This means that these areas are more generalised and not specialised to one particular area.
"For a parent of a child with cancer, transitioning from the expertise of the principle treatment centre to the general wards in the shared care units can be understandably difficult."
“Sometimes staff in the shared care (local) hospitals won’t have seen a child with cancer for a while, so they feel anxious when a child does come in, even though they may have excellent general medical and nursing skills. When you go a while without practising, you deskill and you feel less confident. Parents and children will always pick up on a nurse that’s not confident. That will in turn affect the confidence of the parent and child. That is why the Nurse Educator role is so important and it isn’t just about nurses. We want to be reaching GPs, doctors, education staff, social staff. We also aim to reach out to community staff, not just those working in hospitals, community nursing teams for example.The idea is to alleviate the anxieties of families facing cancer. The last thing they need is to feel anxious and scared about the care they receive.
Nurse Educators are changing shared care
“Our role involves educating nurses, doctors and other health, social care and education professionals in specialist cancer care. That might include sessions on different types of cancer and the different treatment protocols for that cancer type. It could be clinical skills sessions so they feel more confident dealing with a patient’s central line for example or inserting the Portacath needle that goes into their chest for medication and blood tests. It could be a session about chemotherapy and the affects, sharing current best practise and ensuring the treatment families receive at local hospitals in the community will reflect the care delivered in specialist centres.
“For example, a nurse looking after a child with leukaemia and was told to take bloods regularly, but she didn’t know what she was taking bloods for. It is really important in nursing to have a strong rationale behind what you are doing. This nurse did a session on treatment pathways and what blood results meant for patients going through treatment for leukaemia which meant she was better informed to take care of other patients. It gives nurses the confidence to push for the right treatment.”
The second Morrisons-funded Nurse Educator, Chelsea Hammond, starts work this month in the Midlands. Over the next 12 months, Hannah and Chelsea’s work will mean better care for around 800 families facing cancer in the Midlands, Wales and South West England. CLIC Sargent hopes to have five positions covering the whole of England, Scotland and Wales –so families can access the best cancer care wherever they are in the country.
The Nurse Educators are just one of the ways Morrisons fundraising is transforming the way CLIC Sargent can support children, young people and their families following a cancer diagnosis. For more information on the Morrisons and CLIC Sargent charity partnership, or to donate, please visit clicsargent.org.uk/morrisonsdonate