Monday 10th September 2012
In post One year.
Location Mid Essex Primary Care Trust.
Contact Email Kate.
What does your role involve?
In a nutshell, I develop and promote cancer rehabilitation services and survivorship projects across the cancer network. This includes occupational therapy, lymphoedema, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and dietetics.
What is your clinical background?
I came from a specialist oncology physiotherapist role, mainly working in acute inpatient oncology. I currently work one day a week in an oncology outpatient service, which I set up to deal with musculoskeletal problems (mainly after surgery), as well as triaging patients for our exercise group.
Can you tell Mac Voice about the new exercise group?
The exercise programme forms part of a wider survivorship programme in Colchester. The aim is to increase awareness of the importance of exercise for people with cancer and reduce the fear around it. The programme runs for 10 weeks and anyone who has, or has had cancer in the past, can participate.
Some people may be undergoing treatment, while others may be a few years out of treatment but having issues like fatigue or deconditioning (eg reduced function). Everyone is given an individualised programme and we have any on-site gym where they can exercise. Once the 10 weeks is over, participants can enter into a higher intensity programme, but most are encouraged to start exercising in the community.
We support people to get back into exercising in the community and have agreements for reduced membership rates at the local pool and gym. The programme has been running for a year, but has really taken off in the last six months.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to patient support groups and partnership groups to raise the profile of the service and cancer rehabilitation in general. Evaluation for the programme is ongoing, but we want more people to complete the course to make the numbers more robust.
What are the benefits of keeping a clinical element in your role?
I feel that this is vital for me so I know what the challenges are for staff and patients, and I can keep listening to their needs. With the changes happening in the NHS, it’s important to know exactly what the challenges are in order to help overcome them.
What is your greatest success in the role?
This would be raising the profile of cancer rehabilitation. There’s still a lot to be done, but doctors, nurses and patients are now talking about it. Allied health professionals (AHPs) aren’t good at advertising themselves, but we have a lot to offer patients.
With the coalition government emphasising patients take more responsibility for long-term conditions, the role of AHPs is vital. We support people to self-manage their health, improving the quality of life for patients regardless of the timescale.
How would you like the role and service to develop?
Over the next year I’ll be looking at all the different tumour sites and what rehabilitation services are needed to fulfil the rehabilitation and survivorship agendas. This will involve training as the majority of cancer rehabilitation work is done by general or rotational staff that may not be aware of the full scope of cancer care.
I would like all cancer multidisciplinary teams to consider rehabilitation as part of the patient pathway, which will take a lot of education and marketing of services.
What is the best thing about being a Macmillan professional?
It feels like there’s an awful lot of support. For example, you have the website, the Learn Zone and lots of other resources to draw on. It feels like being part of a big team. People also see the branding and know who you are; if you’re part of Macmillan, people trust the brand and have trust in you.
Who inspires you?
Professionally, other AHPs such as Jackie Turnpenney and Maureen Dowling (two of a long list) have been a huge inspiration, pushing the cancer rehabilitation agenda for years and developing guidelines and models.
Personally, my Dad has always been my biggest inspiration. Despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a very young age, he continued to try to help others as best he could through voluntary work and counselling for as long as he was able. His selflessness and strength has been amazing.