15 September 2015
2015 marks the 40th anniversary since the first iconic Macmillan nurses came into the role. But as our team in Stafford explained, there’s more to the job than you might expect....
Norma O’Neill, helped to bring Macmillan nurses to Staffordshire after she talked to Macmillan about creating posts, and she eventually became a Macmillan nurse herself. Anne Birkett became Stafforshire’s first Macmillan nurse in 1989. Diane Talbot and Angela Lindsay both joined 15 years ago, and recent recruit, Claire Cooper joined earlier this year. The team is now based in an office at Katherine House Hospice.
Norma: ‘Because we were a new team and people didn’t know much about us, referrals were really quite slow in the early days,’ Anne: ‘But, they’ve more than quadrupled over the years and we have to be really focused in order to give the best care to our patients.’
Anne: ‘The whole cancer care issue has become more complicated, with new treatments, people surviving longer, many having cancer more than once in their life. So, as well as treatment and symptom management, we offer emotional support, counselling and practical support.’
Diane: ‘We get asked to sort out all sorts of things, not just about their cancer treatment. For example, a patient may need to be re-housed because their home is no longer suitable for them due to their illness, so they ask us to sort it and we get on to the housing association for them. Whatever they need, we try to help them.’
Angela. ‘In a typical day, they may be talking to a GP about a patient who has just been referred to the team, seeking information from an oncologist about treatment for a complex cancer, visiting patients in their homes or signposting them to the best place to find out about benefits they may be entitled to.
Diane: ‘The best thing about the role is continuity for patients and open access. Patients might see a lot of different professionals, but we assign one nurse although families have access to the team as well.
Anne: ‘When I started in 1989 there weren’t mobile phones available for work, so I’d sometimes have to trudge to a phone in my muddy boots to ring to ask a GP to come to see a patient who was needing assistance.’
When Macmillan nurses first began their work in Staffordshire, they had a caseload of about 10 to 20 patients each, now the four team members each have 40 or 50 patients they are working with at any one time, offering them direct and indirect care advice and support as needed, and with the numbers of people in the county living with cancer expected to rise by nearly 70 per cent over the next ten years, it doesn’t look likely that the team will see their workload lighten.
Since putting in place its first nurse, Macmillan’s role has grown: as well as funding a variety of health and social care roles, the charity now also provides advice and support through local information and support centres such as those at County and Royal Stoke Hospitals, providing information on entitlements to benefits, tax credits and grants through Disability Solutions and a cancer advocacy service run in partnership with the Beth Johnson Foundation