Long-term cancer sufferer Roy McCullough, aged 75, says cancer care and aftercare in the North West have been transformed thanks to the support of specialist nurses.
The Londonderry man made the comments as Macmillan Project Manager with the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Martha Magee was recognised at the Nursing Standard Awards in London.
Roy was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago. He is one of the many people in Northern Ireland now living with cancer as a long term condition.
Back in 2002, he had to travel to Belfast for two months of intensive treatment, after which he says he felt “abandoned”.
But now he has more and more support.
“Consultant oncologists aren’t available at the drop of a hat.
“You may only see them once a year.
“The rest of the time I know now that, if I have any concerns, I can phone my Clinical Nurse Specialist and she’ll talk things through or get things rolling.
“I don’t want anyone thinking I’m on the phone all the time but knowing there’s an expert there to talk to is what’s important.”
Roy believes the role of Clinical Nurse Specialists is key to the success of the new system of aftercare and has joined a local support group for men going through treatment and living with prostate cancer.
Martha’s achievements, celebrated in London, were part of the Transforming Cancer Follow up (TCFU) programme.
A team of Northern Ireland nurses won the cancer nursing category.
Accepting the award, on behalf of the TCFU team, Mary Jo Thompson, Nurse Consultant, Public Health Agency said: “We are delighted to receive this prestigious nursing award.
“The success has been achieved because nurses and professionals at all levels have had a shared vision of how to improve aftercare for patients affected by cancer.”
The Transforming Cancer Follow up programme, led by the Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency, has been made possible by generous funding provided by Macmillan Cancer Support.
Patient care has begun to move away from a traditional “one size fits all” approach to cancer aftercare, which traditionally was based around routine follow up appointments.
Instead the focus is on individualised tailored aftercare. As part of the new ‘recovery package’, every patient within the new breast cancer programme has access to a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), who discusses their needs in the form of a written ‘care plan’, which they can take away with them.
Patients are advised of the signs and symptoms to look out for and told who to contact, should any problem arise.
If necessary, a hospital appointment is scheduled without delay.
A treatment record is provided for patients and their GPs.
This ensures coordination of care and a good understanding of any possible longer term consequences and complications which could arise.