More people are receiving curative treatment for lung cancer and follow-up treatment at home...
An award-winning specialist nursing service for lung cancer surgery patients that was set up during COVID is expected to become even busier three years on.
The community thoracic specialist nurse service was funded for two years by Macmillan Cancer Support and was set up by specialist cardiothoracic surgery nurse Stacey Stockdale following extensive work by the lung cancer nursing team at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The service has since developed and is now fully incorporated into the existing team which consists of four specialist nurses who see patients in their own homes.
It won a Nursing Times Award about 18 months ago – and a presentation Stacey did on the service last July at the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery Conference has also won an award for the best presentation on oncology.
Sharing best practice
Stacey has become used to presenting the service as an example of best practice in lung cancer surgery and says NHS teams across the country regularly express an interest in meeting them to find out more about what they do.
“We’ve had interest from other teams across the country in our work, including in Birmingham and Newcastle,” Stacey said.
“Some of them want to come and spend some time with us and see what we do to support patients to go home more quickly after lung cancer surgery and receive continued support in their own homes.”
The service has successfully reduced readmissions to hospital following surgery for lung cancer, by providing reassurance to patients on what’s normal during their recovery, creating a plan for their care at home and carrying out examinations at home.
Patients have follow up appointments within their own home by a team who have specialist knowledge of their surgery and as well as providing ongoing psychological support, the team are able to take bloods at home if required and can be prescribed painkillers and other medications without the need to come into hospital with their symptoms.
The service also provides patients with excellent continuity of care, as Stacey explains.
“The service consists of advanced nurse practitioners and we see people from the point of referral, through their introduction to the surgical teams, in pre-surgery and after surgery and we then also follow them up at home,” she said.
“Because of this service, they have got continuity of care and regular access to specialist advice in the community.”
Stacey adds demand for the service is growing, due to the targeted lung health programme and screening that has recently been introduced locally.
This sees patients who meet certain criteria, such as a history of smoking coupled with lung-related symptoms, referred by their GP for simple and painless screening.
The result is that more lung cancers across the South Tees region are being picked up at an earlier stage – when curative lung cancer surgery can be carried out more easily.
Stacey said: “We have already seen an increase in referrals for targeted lung screening since setting that service up.
“People are picked up by their GPs based on their smoking history and other factors, so we are picking up lung cancers earlier.
“As a result, we’re seeing a big increase in referrals for people who are fit for surgery – and we think our numbers are only going to increase further.”
Reassurance during COVID
Stacey is proud of the fact the service ran successfully during the pandemic.
Patients with cough symptoms and breathing difficulties were still seen in their own homes, providing reassurance they were experiencing common side effects of lung surgery and not COVID.
“We started this in July 2020 during COVID and still went to see people at home during the pandemic,” she said.
“We were still able to provide peace of mind and ensure patients didn’t have to come into hospital, which was a great achievement.”
Although proud of being the person named on the award for best presentation on oncology at the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery conference, she says running the service successfully is very much a team effort.
“Initially, I was employed to set up the service – but it can’t be run by a single person,” she acknowledges.
“We were really clear it had to be run as a team, with the same specialist team seeing each patient in a pre-assessment, on the wards and at home.
“There are only four of us in the team and the patients tend to meet all of us at some point.
“I think patients really appreciate the continuity of care they receive from us and the reassurance we are able to provide."