Lung cancer nurses hit the road

Posted on in Community services

Andrew Naylor at his home with specialist nurse Stacey Stockdale

Specialist lung cancer nurses are hitting the road to minimise the amount of time patients have to spend in hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

The specialist Macmillan thoracic nurses, who care for patients following lung cancer surgery, are travelling to patients’ homes after their operations to provide medical care and social, emotional and psychological support.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, the new pilot scheme at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been made possible thanks to a £50,000 grant from Macmillan Cancer Support and aims to:

  • Reduce the number of patients who need to be readmitted to hospital.
  • Reduce the risk of patients getting a potentially life threatening case of coronavirus.
  • Allow patients to maintain social isolation for 12 weeks after surgery.
  • Enable lung surgery to continue in the safest possible environment.

The Macmillan funding has enabled the team to take on a fourth specialist nurse and lease a white SEAT SUV to get them to patients’ homes over the next 12 months.

The specialist nurses can answer questions about surgery, recovery and symptom management, oversee pain control, refer patients to therapists if they have any breathlessness, treat wound issues and provide test results.

Cardiothoracic surgeons Jonathan Ferguson, Ian Paul and Joel Dunning with specialist Macmillan thoracic nurse Stacey Stockdale and the team’s new vehicle
Andrew Naylor, 62, was the first patient to receive a home visit from the team after having surgery to remove part of his lung.

“Prior to the operation and directly afterwards the care I received from The James Cook University Hospital was fantastic,” said Andrew, who was back home in Neasham three days after his procedure.

“Having to shield I didn’t particularly want to go back into hospital so I was pleased when they said they would come out to see me.

“It’s the first three weeks after your operation when the concerns kick in as you are still on medication, still in pain and still wondering what’s coming next.

“It’s just nice knowing they are going to be there and the reassurance you get from a home visit is far better than a phone call.”

Last year surgeons at South Tees performed more than 800 thoracic cancer operations. The majority of these were lung cancer related.

Jonathan Ferguson, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon said: “We want to pick up and treat these lung cancer patients quickly, but then get them safely back home as soon as possible with the right support in place.

“With patients being better prepared for surgery and adopting enhanced recovery principles such as healthy eating, regular exercise and quitting smoking, they recover quicker and are increasingly being discharged earlier.

“However, it can be really hard emotionally and psychologically when a patient has had a period of intense care on a hospital ward to suddenly find themselves back at home.

“This specialist community support for patients who are being discharged early is an innovative approach to a nationwide problem which enables us to identify any problems and intervene early, reducing the burden on community services and preventing hospital readmissions.”

Tina Thompson, Macmillan partnership manager for North East England, said: “This is an incredibly anxious time for people with cancer.

“Recent analysis by Macmillan showed that the UK is second only to Spain when it comes to cancer patients avoiding hospitals and other healthcare settings, and an international study by YouGov and Imperial College of London* in April found that three in four people with cancer in the UK (77%) had completely avoided medical settings the previous week.

“This anxiety makes this pilot scheme so important as it enables people with cancer to continue their treatment as safely as possible at the same time as reducing their anxieties about regular attendance at hospital during the pandemic.

“We’re delighted to be able to work in partnership with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to make sure that cancer doesn’t become the forgotten C.”

* Jones, Sarah P., Imperial College London Big Data Analytical Unit and YouGov Plc. 2020, Imperial College London YouGov Covid Data Hub, v1.0, YouGov Plc, April 2020