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Review backs value of nurse-led cancer support line for patients

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A free nurse-led telephone service for cancer patients has helped reduce anxiety among sufferers, according to an independent evaluation.

The Cancer Callback service, which is run by charity Tenovus Cancer Care and funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, is available to all cancer patients in Wales.

Anyone who has been diagnosed can register to get support and advice from a nurse throughout their treatment.

Figures for the service show more than 700 people registered from 2012-14 and nurses handled 6,460 calls with 21% lasting more than 10 minutes. All participants received at least three calls.

“Patients could speak to the nurses for as long as they needed to, asking the questions they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable asking in a clinical environment”

Rachel Iredale

The evaluation of the service, by the University of South Wales, found users valued this access to expert information and advice and the chance to ask questions.

Publicity for the service makes it clear there are “no silly questions about cancer” and callers appreciated the fact it allowed them to explore “trivial” matters they did not feel able to discuss at hospital appointments.

Many said they felt more able to cope because of the support they got with 90% of people who used the service rating it “good” or “excellent”.

Users are assigned to a named nurse. They said this made it easier to build up a rapport and raise sensitive issues.

“Patients could speak to the nurses for as long as they needed to, asking the questions they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable asking in a clinical environment, which in turn lessened their anxiety and made them feel more able to cope with cancer,” said Rachel Iredale, director of cancer support at Tenovus Cancer Care.

“The nurses were also able to signpost patients to other relevant support services, such as help with financial matters,” she said.

Professor Maggie Kirk who carried out the evaluation said the service had helped fill some gaps in cancer care provision and offered “significant benefits” to patients.

“The Cancer Callback service goes some way to filling gaps in the provision of cancer care in NHS Wales,” she said.

“It helped fill gaps created through geography and differences in the care available to patients across Wales, as well as helping those patients without named key workers,” she added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am currently off sick having recently received a cancer diagnosis. I cannot speak highly enough of the specialist McMillan nurse whom I have seen in person several times and her always immediate response to phone calls. Her knowledge of her subject appears as good as the consultants. The reassurance and genuine care and interest, at the darkest time of my life, I am so grateful for. I also feel proud of my profession as I know there are many others whom take such pride in their work

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