Friday 13th July 2012
Macmillan Clinical Lead Speech and Language Therapist Eryl Evans finds distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to care
The South West Wales Cancer Centre in Swansea provides treatment for people throughout a large region. This means that many patients have to travel great distances for their diagnosis, treatment and follow-up appointments. Travelling times are long, the road infrastructure is poor and public transport is limited.
We knew that some patients weren’t able to make the journey for follow-up appointments as the distances and inconvenience of cross-country travelling were too overwhelming at a time when they were vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. Having put up with the journey for radiotherapy and surgery, facing the same journeys for regular rehabilitation was often one journey too many.
Yet, the level of specialist speech and language therapy (SLT) input required for some patients was often not available locally.
Trialling new systems
In 2008, we started offering follow-up SLT using high quality videoconferencing equipment. This would allow patients to attend a hospital closer to their home, and still see the specialist speech and language therapist from the cancer centre via videoconferencing facilities.
We started with one patient who was happy to volunteer. This soon became his preferred method of rehabilitation, while continuing to attend the cancer centre for medical follow-up. This meant less travelling time and expense for the family.
This form of speech and language therapy was subsequently offered to anyone living at a distance from the cancer centre, and was successfully implemented with a small but growing number of patients from 2008.
We had no technical issues, but access to videoconferencing facilities was often a problem at the cancer centre, being part of a large hospital.
To date, there has only been positive feedback from the patients and their families – to quote our first volunteer, ‘It was just like being in the room with you – I could have said anything that I would have said face-to-face.’
Extending the service
Because of the success of the trials, we obtained Macmillan funding for a three-year outreach therapy project to provide a dedicated videoconferencing service to people with cancer living in rural west Wales. This project was launched in January 2012.
Contact Eryl Evans MSc FRCSLT, Macmillan Clinical Lead Speech and Language Therapist at Singleton Hospital, ABM University Health Board, Swansea on 017 9228 5056 or email Eryl.