Newcastle Hospitals cancer service has been expanded to seven days a week so patients receive treatment quicker with greater flexibility.
The day treatment cancer service previously ran five-days a week at Ward 36 in Freeman hospital’s Northern Centre for Cancer Care, managing emergency admissions and over 60 patients a day for chemotherapy treatment.
Last year, over 18,000 appointments were delivered at ward 36, delivering care and treatment to over 3,000 patients.
The service development is part of the NHS Long-Term Plan to meet cancer service capacity needs to improve faster access to treatment and help save lives, as Senior Sister Ashleigh Hughes explains:
“During the last two years COVID-19 has had a major impact on cancer care, meaning unfortunately some people are waiting longer than we would like to receive treatment.
“Once you have been told worst news possible and then that you need treatment, you are then anxiously waiting for it to start. This expansion means we can offer more appointments than ever, reducing the waiting time to start treatment.”
As well as expanding capacity, the service has also developed in response to changing cancer treatments such as immunotherapy which have, subsequently, resulted in many patients being able to stay on treatment and live with cancer:
“This opens up the opportunity for patients living with cancer who still want – and are able – to work to have greater flexibility with appointments. That, in turn, ultimately gives them financial security which is a huge concern for many of our patients,” said Ashleigh.
Twenty-five year-old Hunain Haider, was diagnosed with Beta thalassaemia major – a blood disorder – when he was 3 months old, meaning he is unable to produce haemoglobin.
Since then, he has been receiving fortnightly blood transfusions over two days, which includes a cross-matching of blood and a transfusion the following day.
Previously, Hunain had to attend appointments during the week which impacted on his studies…
“I would have treatment every two weeks usually on Thursday and Friday and because of that I missed a lot of key events in my life such as education, work and placements,” he said.
“I studied law at university, and if my seminars or lectures happened at the time of my blood transfusion, my studies were negatively impacted by this disruption.”
Hunain graduated from university but as a new professional, continued to have issues accessing treatment and maintaining his career.
“My team leader made arrangements for me to take annual leave on the days I needed treatment, but there is only so much annual leave allowance. I had to start exploring reducing my hours at work – which isn’t something I wanted to do.”
Hunain approached Mel Hall, haemoglobinopathy nurse specialist, to see if there was a way of coming for treatment at the weekend instead.
“I have been through a lot, and side-lined a lot of opportunities in my life, so I wanted to find a way to be able to balance my treatment and life more effectively,” he added.
“Mel mentioned this new service on Ward 36 at the Freeman Hospital, where patients could attend at the weekend flexibly for treatment. This came at the perfect time for me and has opened up so many layers of new opportunities. Even though I have a hidden disability, I want to live well like everyone else.”
The seven-day cancer service runs from 8am – 7pm, seven-days a week.