Elderly leukaemia patients are now able to receive life-enhancing treatment in the comfort of their own homes, thanks to an award-winning service developed at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Patients can now receive chemotherapy injections at home – administered by themselves or a loved one – reducing the need for hospital admissions.
The award-winning service, which came about thanks to the bright idea of a group of specialist nurses, has prolonged the lives of many elderly people with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), some of whom had previously refused the treatment based on the need to visit hospital twice a day for 10 consecutive days.
Those from rural areas have found it particularly beneficial, as Sister Jennifer Lawn, haematology nurse specialist, explains.
“We’ve received some really moving statements from patients about the scheme,” she said.
“We’ve had patients from Osmotherley who would have had to go to James Cook twice a day for their treatments if it wasn’t for this service and we have had relatives who have said things like: “This saved my mother’s life for a long time”.
“It has prevented so many hospital admissions for patients who are very ill and would rather be at home. Seeing the positive impact it has on patients is really rewarding.”
Typically, the treatment for AML using the chemotherapy drug Cytarabine is given twice daily for 10 consecutive days, every four to six weeks.
Over the four courses or more each patient receives, this had meant 80+ hospital appointments.
For this reason, Helen Walker, Haematology Outreach Nurse Specialist, Wendy Anderson, Macmillan Nurse chemotherapy consultant and Dr Dianne Plews, consultant haematologist, developed the service teaching patients and their relatives how to administer the chemo in their own homes.
And patients with the condition, who, sadly, have a shortened life expectancy, are now able to spend as much precious time at home with their loved ones as possible.
The scheme, developed in partnership with the trust’s innovation scouts, won third prize in the Service Improvement category at the Bright Ideas in Health Awards, run by NHS Innovations North.
Jennifer said: “It was nice to be recognised in this area of haematology, particularly as it involves cross-site working, with both The Friarage and The James Cook University Hospital involved and it’s great to be out there winning a prize for innovation in the North of the region.”
Other innovators employed by the trust are being encouraged to send their ideas for improving healthcare to ‘Innovation Scouts’ based at the South Tees Institute for Learning, Research and Innovation (LRI) on the James Cook site.
This team works hand in hand with the Academic Health Science Network for North East and North Cumbria and NHS Innovations North to develop ideas for improving healthcare within the local population and beyond.
Members of staff can send a simple email to firstname.lastname@example.org, which could mark the first step in turning a dream healthcare service into a reality, whether it’s a new gadget or gizmo, an unmet need a specialist has identified within a service, or an idea on how to integrate existing technologies or improve services.