Dr Katie Urch is the Trust’s cancer lead. Working throughout the Trust’s three main hospitals, she specialises in complex pain management, palliative care, service development and transformation of services.
She featured in the incredibly moving second episode of this season of Hospital as she discussed the difficult subject of a patients self-funding care and the availability of certain drugs on the NHS.
Dr Urch spoke to us about the episode, the difficult decisions they face every day and the work the charity has done to improve quality of care for cancer patients.
“I thought it was a very good episode”, she said. “It was balanced in the questions it raised and there are always going to be questions about cancer treatments and expensive drugs”.
“I think shows like Hospital are very important at redressing the balance of sometimes incredibly negative and simplistic stories about the NHS or staff. It’s not that problems don’t exist but there is the occasional need for more positive stories. What I liked about it is that it showed the individuals in a positive way, as hardworking, carding and committed people who are working in an incredibly hard system with so much demand and difficult decisions being made every day”.
Dr Urch believes that there is a demonstrable benefit of the show in terms of the response from patients: “What was very interesting as a consequence of the first series of Hospital was that when we cancelled on patients, we used to get a huge number of complaints every time but they basically just dried up because people understood that it wasn’t just someone sitting there going ‘oh, I don’t want to deal with Mr X’, but that it was actually a painful decision to make.”
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 offers the most up-to date chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, leading to one of the best survival rates in the country and recent support from the charity has helped improve cancer care and patient experiences throughout.
A key initiative came in the form of a major grant to help cancer survivors get their lives back on track by reducing the amount of time they spend in hospital. The grant enabled the creation of a new aftercare service, known as Open Access Follow-Up (OAFU), to replace routine follow-up hospital appointments with a phone-based service, carried out by a specialist team.
“It makes an amazing difference”, said Dr Urch. “There’s nearly two and a half thousand patients who don’t have to come in for face to face follow-up clinics for years. We’ve had really good feedback, the nurses love it, we’ve had no patients refuse, it’s become just how we do it now. The system is both very cheap and highly effective.”
The service has been so successful that there are plans to expand it to other hospitals and Dr Urch’s team are hoping for it to be adopted across London.
The charity has also contributed £98,000 to transform the hospital’s oncology outpatient department, Clinic 8, which was visible throughout the episode. 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 renovations look wonderful. The improvements are legion; the patients love it, lots of comments still about how bright it is, how clean, how clear it is to find their way around.”
The creation of separate welcome and discharge reception and waiting areas keeps patients moving and prevents congestion in what is already a busy clinic.
“We’ve expanded the clinics down there by 20% and when we started the project everyone wanted more rooms but we haven’t had to do that because the flow is much better. I don’t think anyone would go back to how we were before. Everything has changed and patients continue to love it, it’s a constant feedback that we’re getting so it’s fantastic.”
“We wouldn’t be where we are in oncology and cancer care without the charity, they’ve been amazing.”
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.