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I'm a social worker within a team of Macmillan clinical nurse specialists. It's a unique role because most social workers aren't fully integrated within healthcare teams.
My job is to ensure a smooth transition between health and social care for people affected by cancer, by navigating and negotiating social care referral processes on their behalf.
Different social care services, such as adult social care, immediate care services or the Blue Badge parking scheme, all have different access points and procedures. I help people to access these services in a timely manner. I receive referrals from the multidisciplinary teams and clinics across the oncology and haematology directorate, and I accept direct referrals from people living with cancer and their families. Patients are always given my phone number as I remain a point of contact for them throughout their cancer journey, whether they are inpatients or outpatients.
It was created by our lead cancer nurse Lizzie Summers, who envisioned a role that would ensure continuity of care for inpatients and outpatients.
I was very lucky to step into the role when it was new. I had previously worked for the NHS and for social care services for many years, in separate positions, so this was the ideal role to fit my background and experience.
The first challenge was building a whole new way of working. Previously patients were all too often just given a list of numbers to call. They would have to battle for access to social care services alone, on top of their other worries, and waited longer for referrals to take place. We wanted to transform patient care from a model of being reactive to being proactive.
I wanted to look at processes from a patient-centred point of view and challenge conventions; to ask questions like, ‘Why do we need to fill in all of these forms?’. Because we have challenged the normal way of doing things, there has been some resistance. That side of things has been a struggle at times. However, being a Macmillan professional does open a lot of doors for you. The team I work in is brilliant and Macmillan loves innovative ways of working.
This is a local service development initiative I have worked on. It has involved me having my own budget, based on a fixed-term funding agreement for extraordinary services and not statutory provision. The fund is aimed at providing patients with practical help, such as one-off pieces of equipment or accommodation.
The project has really made a difference. It allowed one man to die at home as he wished, as overnight care was not available from anywhere else. It also meant I could arrange for a homeless lady to stay in a holiday cottage when she was dying, and organise for her friends and family from around the world to visit her. In another case, a lady just wanted me to arrange help with taking her dog out for walks.
Yes, I visited the Houses of Parliament on behalf of Macmillan in September, to take part in the Social Care at the End of Life Parliamentary Round Table. Macmillan is campaigning to make social care free for everyone at end of life|, so that people with cancer can die at home if they wish.
Lizzie is one of them, along with Jacqui Graves, Macmillan's Head of Health and Social Care, and my colleague Julie Reece, Macmillan Occupational Therapist.
My current role has involved doing some quite unusual tasks. We once organised accommodation for a homeless man and ended up helping him to refurbish the entire flat and move in, including carrying boxes up the stairs and packing Julie's car. Aside from that I can often be found packing my car with a variety of things for work, from wheelchairs to commodes - you name it.
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