A newly released Macmillan report highlights the far-reaching impact of the charity’s investment in South and Mid Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire, as part of the five-year Macmillan Living With And Beyond Cancer Programme

The Macmillan Programme, in partnership with the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance, has recruited 43 Macmillan Cancer Support Workers, some within hospital teams, others in community settings, all with the aim of delivering personalised care and support to people diagnosed with cancer. 

Macmillan Cancer Support Workers support the emotional, financial and psychological impacts of a cancer diagnosis, as well as helping patients and their loved ones navigate the health and social care system.  An example of this could include communicating test results, coordinating appointments, talking through any concerns and signposting people to support that suits their individual needs.
The positive effects of the role are having an impact across the organisations they work in. Clinical Nurse Specialists, the primary contact for patients diagnosed with cancer, report improvements in workload, stress and job satisfaction because of the additional support.  The nurses also report having more time to concentrate on more clinically complex patients.   

The Macmillan evaluation report found that Cancer Support Workers saved an estimated 25-40 hours of nurses’ time, this is up to five days every fortnight. This equates to almost 120 days per year of time saved for the cancer teams.  

Ann Parkin (pictured), Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist at Rotherham Hospital said: 

“The introduction of a Macmillan Cancer Support Worker has taken our service to a new level. 

 “We’re able to respond to patient’s needs a lot quicker and we’ve had a lot of positive patient feedback.  

“The extra capacity created by role, as highlighted in the Macmillan report, not only helps us to focus on the more clinically complex patients; crucially, it frees up headspace and imagination for the team to think about new ways of delivering services. 

“We’ve improved the quality of service we provide as a team and I’m really proud of that fact.”  

Richard Metcalfe is the Macmillan Programme Manager and Cancer Alliance Programme Lead, he said: 

 “The findings of the Macmillan evaluation report send a clear message that investment is best spent when we fully understand the local need.  

“There is no one size fits all approach, each area we worked with had the opportunity to adapt the Cancer Support Worker role to their local need and we’re now seeing really positive results. 

“The funding and introduction of the 43 Cancer Support Workers across the region not only support the everyday workload of teams, they also support the teams to flourish. The role is proving to be a catalyst and multiplier for service improvement. 

“Crucially, people affected by cancer, the experts by experience, were involved in this piece of work from the start and have been embedded into every process and funding decision taken.” 


Post-coronavirus pandemic

As with all sections of the health and social care system cancer support organisations across the region are operating in a very different way in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Macmillan evaluation report found that the programme framework in place, which previously enabled enhanced personalised care and support, has provided a strong structure on which to continue that support during the pandemic. 

Despite the extensive operational pressures and significant changes to nursing roles and patient pathways since March many of the Cancer Support Workers have been able to continue to provide support for patients remotely, this has been incredibly important at a time when people diagnosed with cancer are feeling anxious because of delayed treatment or shielding restrictions. 

Amanda Prout, is a Macmillan Cancer Support Worker based in Barnsley, and has been in the role with the urology cancer team just over a year.  She has continued to support people throughout the pandemic, she said: 

“Like everyone we had to rethink how we continue to support people very quickly. 

“I’ve been continuing to talk to patients over the phone everyday, there’s been an increase in the need for emotional support during this worrying time.  

“People are fearful of delays to treatment and experiencing side effects but they’re unsure of where to go. We've been helping people get important information about the changes in their hospital, care and community services, we take that stress away from them at an already stressful time.

“The biggest challenge during this time has been the lack of face to face contact, you have to work much harder to build rapport and trust with the patient. 

“One benefit of this new way of working has been the collaboration with our community partners. I’m now based at The Well (community provider), the hospital and working from home, this flexibility has meant we understand the situation in every setting and can safely continue the support we offer. 

 “This approach hasn’t been the same for all Cancer Support Workers, some have been based at the hospital throughout the pandemic. This role is unique in that it can be adapted locally and within areas to suits the needs of that patient group. 

“We’re that first point of call, good communication always helps, it settles people.” 

Julie Hoole is the Macmillan Strategic Partnership Manager for Yorkshire, she said: 

“Our local partners and Macmillan professionals have been incredible in adapting quickly and creatively to provide support for people with cancer during the pandemic.

“We’ve found that many of our 43 Macmillan Cancer Support Workers, in place because of Macmillan funding across the region, have been able to provide ongoing support while cancer treatment has been paused or because cancer teams were re-deployed because of the pandemic. 

“This illustrates a clear and ongoing a commitment from Macmillan and our partners to preserve this enhanced level of personalised care and support for cancer patients despite this challenging time.”   

Second Interim Evaluation Report (April 2020), Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme