16 March 2015
Philippa Jones, a Macmillan Nurse Adviser, helped set up the helpline
A phone helpline set up to support people undergoing cancer treatment in Shropshire has received national recognition in the Nursing Standard.
The 24-hour acute oncology helpline was highlighted as an example of innovation in acute oncology care by the respected healthcare journal. The helpline, which is being funded by Macmillan for three years, is provided by Shropdoc and was set up in partnership with the Oncology team at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.
One local cancer patient who accessed the helpline said: 'I used the helpline as part of my chemotherapy treatment and must admit I was dubious to start with, I thought I would be passed around a call centre. However, when I first rang the helpline the call handler was friendly and helpful and took a long time to do a full assessment.
'Following the assessment alarm bells were ringing for her, but she reassured me that I would be fine and arranged for me to be admitted to hospital straight away. She told me where to go and even spoke to my husband to reassure him as well. When I got to hospital it was obvious that the staff there had been given a full handover about my condition and I was seen straight away.
'I also needed to call the helpline at a later stage of my treatment and received an equivalent service that time as well. In that situation the call handler didn't feel I needed an admission but arranged for a GP to visit me at home. The next day I then received a phone call from the helpline to check that I was still doing OK at home with the added assurance that if I ran into further problems I was to contact them straight away. I was so impressed with the service.'
Cancer patients can call the helpline if they experience any complications or side effects and a member of the Shropdoc team will assess them over the phone using the UKONS 24-hour triage tool and advise them whether they need to be seen at the hospital. If they don’t need to be seen urgently the team will either arrange to contact the patient within 24 hours to check they are ok, or instruct the patient to call back themselves if their condition deteriorates.
Philippa Jones, Macmillan Acute Oncology Nurse Adviser who helped set up the helpline, said: 'This model has been hugely successful in Shropshire and we hope that other Trusts across England will see the success we are having and try and replicate it in their areas.
'It has been shown to give nurses time to provide more direct patient care, avoid unnecessary admission to hospital and improve relationships between acute and primary care, all of which helps ensure patients are receiving the best possible experience and care. I'm really proud to see the Trust and Shropdoc get the recognition they deserve.'
So far the helpline has been a huge success: from January to September last year, the team took 1,257 calls. Of those, only 373 needed to be admitted to hospital.