The new centre, due to open in summer 2019, will provide space to bring together a range of services in one location. These will include cancer information, emotional support, welfare benefits advice, practical support and signposting to support groups and other services.
There are currently 27,826 people living with cancer in Lincolnshire and this number is expected to double by 2030. It is important to ensure that patients and their families can access information, advice and support at different stages throughout their cancer experience.
However, the current cancer information and support centre at Lincoln County Hospital does not have enough space to offer a full service. It is difficult to find and operates out of one small room with no separate private area for patients who may need emotional support. There is also not enough room to stock the full range of leaflets and information that patients and their families need.
Funded by Macmillan, the new centre will be relocated to the main outpatients entrance, so it will be much more visible and accessible for patients. It will include a large area to display information and resources, a quiet room for patients and their families to speak with a member of the Macmillan Cancer Support team, and a group activity room which could be used by support groups or for other services, such as wig fitting.
It will mean the team will be able to support more people living with cancer like Gwen Ackroyd, 54, from Lincoln who is living with incurable breast cancer.
Gwen was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and treated successfully at Lincoln County Hospital. However, in 2016 the cancer returned and spread to other parts of her body.
“When I had breast cancer the first time there wasn’t very much support really, you just felt like you were left on your own to get on with it once you were diagnosed and given your treatment plan. It was a very lonely, isolating experience. All the focus is getting on with your treatment which is obviously important, but there’s so much more to it. I wasn’t offered any emotional or financial support and financially cancer is a huge burden. My girls were 13 the first time and doing all of their after-school activities. We were trying to keep everything as normal as possible so didn’t want to stop them from doing anything like that, but money was an issue. The next 2 years passed in a haze of treatment – it was an extremely stressful time.”
When Gwen was diagnosed a second time she found out about the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support centre when she overheard the centre manager Beverley Gambles talking to someone in the bed next to her.
At the time, Bev was operating the service out of a small office, hidden away down a corridor, with no separate space to talk to patients so was having to provide support on the wards themselves.
Gwen said: “I’d no idea that kind of support was on offer. Bev put me in touch with the Macmillan Welfare Benefits Service at St Barnabas Hospice and together they helped me to claim a Macmillan Grant to pay for new clothes as I’d put on weight due to the treatment. They told me that I was eligible for Personal Independent Payment which enabled me sort out a mobility car and helped me to claim Employment and Support Allowance, a payment to help if you are unable to work as you were before. Having that support made a huge difference.”
Having experienced a cancer diagnosis with and without Macmillan support, Gwen is backing plans for the new centre which she says will transform the patient experience.
“It’s very important to be able to talk to someone. Friends who haven’t had cancer don’t understand and say the wrong thing, without intending to. Macmillan understands and knows exactly what to say. This new centre will be fantastic and is so badly needed. It will mean a massive improvement in the services and the new support centre will be much more visible enabling more people to know about it and the support available. Having a separate quiet space to talk to people, so it doesn’t have to be done on the ward, where other people might be able to hear, is really, really important.”
Ruth Willis, Macmillan Partnership Manager for Lincolnshire, said: “Cancer is not just about survival but also living well, so it is vital that we try and support patients with’ non-clinical needs as well. This new centre will offer a space for people with a variety of needs relating to their cancer diagnosis. We want to help them find their best way through from the moment of diagnosis, so they are able to live life as fully as they can.”
The new Macmillan Cancer Support Centre at Lincoln County Hospital is part of wider plans to improve access to cancer information and support in the county. As one of the most rural areas of the UK, there is evidence that people living with cancer are not getting the information and support that they need.
Ruth continued: “Through our work with the Lincolnshire Living With Cancer Programme, we know that people living in the county are not always aware of the cancer information and support available to them or have to travel a long way to access it. This is the one of the steps we are taking in trying to change that.”
Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, Sarah Ward, said: “Having listened to patients describing their experiences, ULHT are delighted to be working with Macmillan to transform the offer of support in Lincolnshire. The new centre is part of a range of ways we are developing services for patients and we eagerly anticipate the difference this resource will make.”
This is just one example of how Macmillan is helping people living with cancer across Lincolnshire find their best way through. To find out how you can support Macmillan in Lincolnshire contact Lincolnshire Fundraising Manager Jamie Davenport on 07595 091 384 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.