Friday 30th September 2016
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Autumn 2016
Rebecca Goldfinch is one of a small number of consultant radiographers specialising in palliative radiotherapy across the UK
When I was appointed there were very few consultant radiographers specialising in palliative radiotherapy. The role was developed to enhance services for patients by receiving direct referrals and managing the whole pathway: from clinical assessment through to prescribing and planning radiotherapy. I take referrals from medical oncologists, palliative medicine consultants and haematologists, preventing the need to involve clinical oncologists.
Making a difference
The first two years of my contract, which started in September 2013, were assigned for training and education. I then started taking direct referrals to my service. The initial numbers were small but encouraging, with 16 new patients from mid-October to the end of December in 2015. However, demand is growing, and in April 2016 alone I had 17 new patients referred to me.
Direct referral to my service gives patients improved access to treatment. I have been able to see patients promptly when they have been referred urgently, enabling them to start radiotherapy sooner. This is particularly beneficial for patients having radiotherapy for metastatic spinal cord compression, for whom prompt treatment is vital.
The Acute Oncology Service has indicated that they see the benefit of my post. They have a smoother referral process when patients are identified as requiring urgent radiotherapy, with improved communication between the disciplines.
Radiotherapy staff have also felt the benefit of this improved pathway. The quicker process allows patients to be treated earlier in the day, when more staff are available, which is preferable for all concerned.
I have taken on quite a large amount of the planning of palliative radiotherapy. This has allowed clinical oncologists to focus on their other work.
Both people affected by cancer and my colleagues now have access to a named member of staff for advice, information and support.
Developing services and my role
Palliative patients are entitled to the same quality of service as those beginning their cancer journey. My post has already had a positive impact and I anticipate that this will develop further as my service expands and referrals increase.
One patient told me:
'Thank you for organising all of my treatment. It has made it easier knowing you were sorting everything out for me and that you were keeping an eye on things. The whole process has been easier than I expected.'
I am a member of the Society and College of Radiographers Consultant Radiographer Group, in which service development and examples of best practice are discussed and shared. I have also developed close links with radiographers with similar responsibilities.
I continue to develop my skills and practice. My intention is to extend my role to cover other sites which require palliative treatment, such as brain metastases or symptomatic lung, bladder or prostate cancer. I am currently undertaking a research study to complete my MSc, which includes studying the phenomenon of pain flare due to radiotherapy. This is a temporary increase in bone pain. I hope to publish the results to share the knowledge gained.
Macmillan Consultant Radiographer
New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton