The second episode of Hospital focuses on cancer care, the challenges facing staff and patients, and what medical advances mean for the NHS.
Cancer is currently the biggest cause of premature death in England and more than one in three people will develop the condition during their lifetime.
The Trust has cancer services at its three main hospitals, offering the most up-to date chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, leading to one of the best survival rates in the country.
Recent support from the charity has helped improve cancer care and patient experiences throughout the Trust.
The charity has contributed £98,000 to transform the hospital’s oncology outpatient department, Clinic 8. The improvements have resulted shorter waiting times, a more positive environment and the creation of three new rooms in the clinic for research, admin and psychology appointments.
The creation of separate welcome and discharge reception and waiting areas keeps patients moving and prevents congestion in what is already a busy clinic. Further improvements have come from new computers, an upgraded weighing area, information wall and blood room.
Dr Katie Urch, chief of service for oncology and palliative care, who features throughout the episode, praised the changes.
“Previously, we had patients overwhelming the clinic area, long waiting times, disaffected staff and it was a really unhappy place. Now it’s incredible.”
“Patients told us they used to book out a whole day to come to Clinic 8 but now they’re in and out in an hour. This work has revolutionised the whole running of the clinic.”
A major grant from the charity is helping cancer survivors get their lives back on track by reducing the amount of time they spend in hospital.
A new aftercare service, known as Open Access Follow-Up (OAFU), has replaced routine follow-up hospital appointments with a phone-based service carried out by a specialist team.
Dr Urch said: “Before this, we were having clinics of 40 or 50 patients, with each of them only getting about two minutes – that’s not quality time.”
“We weren’t helping them get on with their lives. OAFU has been liberating for our patients and it was necessary for our staff.”
The service is managed by a team that includes three support workers who provide personal phone contact, relay results, enquire about late effects of treatment and help patients access a range of support services.
Patients can use the dedicated phoneline at any time to report worries or concerns, and if they need to be seen they will get an appointment within two weeks. The grant has also paid for a data manager to set up and track the patients.
“OAFU enables the patients to both feel linked to their specialist team and have a route back while being able to continue with life,” said Dr Urch. “We couldn’t have done this without the charity. This was a very different and novel approach. We needed somebody to support it to show everyone it could work.”
Every year the charity provides grants of up to £50,000 for medical and non-medical staff to undertake 12 months of out-of-programme research to develop their research skills for the benefit of patients at Imperial College Healthcare Trust.
Many of the grants we’ve awarded have focused on improving the Trust’s understanding and treatment of cancer. This year we contributed £50,000 for research into developing a non-invasive urine test to diagnose stomach and gullet cancer, which is diagnosed in over 12,000 people each year. Previous grants include research into improving detection of bowel cancer and a study to help male cancer survivors form relationships.
For more information about our research fellowships, visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/research-fellowships
A grant from the charity has improved access to scalp cooling machines that stop hair falling out during chemotherapy.
Hair loss is one of the most distressing side effects of chemotherapy and to help prevent it, the charity has paid for a third machine at Charing Cross Hospital.
Now an extra four patients a day can use the equipment, which acts as a cooling cap, freezing hair follicles to stop them falling out.
“Psychologically, hair loss is something that really affects patients and it can be very distressing for them,” said Selina Banfield, Oncology Outpatient Matron at the Trust. “The treatment definitely improves patients’ quality of life and gives them a lot of comfort.”
We’re proud to support better cancer care at our hospitals and you can too. If you’d like to get involved and show your support, please visit our fundraising page to find out how you can take part in one of our regular fundraising events or organise your own.
You can also donate to help improve cancer services around the Trust. 100% of the money raised by the charity goes back to improving patient care. Visit our website for more information.