The future of cancer services on Teesside

Posted on in Services

The trust has teamed up with Macmillan to review and improve every step of a cancer patient’s journey.

Endeavour unit radiotherapy machine

Funded by Macmillan until autumn 2015, the integration of cancer care project takes a close look at existing services and how patients move through the healthcare system, covering everything from diagnosis to recovery support and end of life care.

The project involves working closely with primary care, community health services, social services and the third sector as well as patients and their carers.

Recommendations will be made to help transform services with an emphasis placed on improving patient experience, patient information, communication between services, staff training, standardisation of care and providing care closer to home.

“It’s about working together to ensure the right person provides the right care at the right time and that the standard of care provided is what we want for ourselves, our friends and family and the local population,” said project manager Carol Taylor.

The development was one of many celebrated at the trust’s annual cancer conference at James Cook. Other key achievements highlighted were:

  • The Trinity Holistic Centre has expanded its services – the centre has traditionally supported people under the care of specialist cancer consultants (oncologists). Now anyone with cancer who is under the care of any consultant at the trust can use the centre. The centre has also expanded to include a bedside service for inpatients along with a number of wellbeing projects designed to support patients and carers.
  • Lung cancer patients can now have their tumours removed using keyhole surgery. The specialist procedure, known as a VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) lobectomy, is much less invasive than traditional surgery so it can be offered to elderly patients who may previously have been deemed not fit enough for surgery.
  • A new state-of-the-art radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients has been introduced called stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR). SABR uses the latest developments in radiotherapy technology from Elekta to deliver very high doses of radiation to tumours in the chest with millimetre precision. By maximising the dose to the tumour, the risk of damaging surrounding normal tissues in minimised, increasing cure rates for patients as well as reducing side effects. Treatment times for some patients undergoing radiotherapy have also been reduced by up to a fifth.

Louise Shutt, cancer services manager said: “We are proud to offer some of the most advanced cancer treatments in Europe.

“But we are continuously working on new developments, pathways and techniques to keep us at the leading edge of cancer care and ensure our patients receive the very best care and support throughout every step of their journey.”

The annual cancer conference featured updates from national and local speakers on what’s new in cancer services. These included Sir Prof John Burn, professor of clinical genetics (cancer genetics – the future), Prof Greg Rubin, professor of general practice and primary care (primary care referral pathways) , Mr Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer NHS England, (cancer 2014 and beyond) and Macmillan GP Dr Jonathan Berry (clinical commissioning group service developments in Middlesbrough).

Liz beats cancer twice!

Assistant head teacher Liz Shaller is urging people to get any symptoms checked out as early as possible after beating cancer not once, but twice.

Liz Shaller

Liz Shaller

Mrs Shaller was first diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago when an unrelated scan revealed a tumour on her left kidney.

The kidney was removed along with the tumour, which had grown to the size of an orange. Luckily the cancer had not spread as it had been discovered at such an early stage.

“I survived cancer and I thought that’s it for me. I had had my cancer,” said Mrs Shaller, who lives in Middlesbrough.

“But then last year all of my holiday plans went out of the window when they found a cyst on my ovary.”

The cyst turned out to be a tumour which grew to the size of a rugby ball and attached itself to the ureter of my remaining kidney.

“I just thought I was going to die, but they removed the tumour and tests revealed it was still at an early stage and had not spread – I was very lucky.”

Mrs Shaller agreed to share her story at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s annual cancer conference where she urged everyone to attend cancer screening appointments and get any symptoms checked out by their GP.

“It’s all about early screening,” she said “If you get it caught early enough they can cure you.”

Mrs Shaller, who works at Ingleby Mill Primary School, said she could not fault the service she received both from James Cook and from her GP practice, Cambridge Medical Group in Linthorpe.

“It was second to none in all areas. The surgeons and the gynaecology cancer nurses were incredible and you could ring the nurses or the chemotherapy ward at any time day or night and they would just put your mind at rest. The Macmillan volunteers and the holistic centre were fantastic too.”