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Link workers are the key link to Cancer Care Reviews

Link workers are the key link to Cancer Care Reviews
29 April 2022

Cancer care in Sheffield has been given a ‘personalised touch’ thanks to the help of non-clinical link workers in a bid to improve patient experience across the city.

Cancer Care Reviews are a conversation between a patient and their GP or practice nurse about their cancer journey that takes place within six months of a diagnosis. This work is essential to help patients talk about their experience and to understand what resources are available.

However, in a new pilot scheme, NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has teamed up with Social Prescribing, who aim of developing a thriving network of referral routes that will reduce health inequalities, by launching a programme that trains non-clinical link workers to meet these patients and discuss life after a diagnosis – something which GPs wouldn’t have the capacity to do.

The pilot project, which was originated and developed by NHS Sheffield CCG’s Lead Cancer Nurse Louise Metcalfe, started during the pandemic and has already seen huge success with the two practices involved with the pilot, Woodhouse Medical Practice and Sothall Medical Centre. 

This approach is the first of its kind in Yorkshire, by using a holistic review, the focus is centred on the non-medical impact of a cancer diagnosis.

The team supported 47 cancer patients across Woodhouse and Sothall during the project, with 84% of patients agreeing the review was either ‘very useful’ or ‘extremely useful’ following a patient survey at the end of the programme.

However, Social Prescribing predict that hundreds more could be set to benefit from this work going forward. 

Kevin Pickering, from Sheffield, who has taken part in the part in the pilot, said: “This approach has given me the time and opportunity to speak about anything I wanted and has given me the chance to get things off my chest.

“I’ve been in a dark place after my stay in hospital, but the mindfulness techniques and resources shared with me by the team have been incredibly useful.”

Louise Metcalfe, Lead Cancer Nurse at NHS Sheffield CCG, added: “Quality cancer care reviews when carried out enable higher quality personalised care conversations to occur. Many people can feel dropped-of-a-cliff after discharge from secondary care and unfortunately GPs don’t always have time to carry out quality Cancer Care Reviews.

“This is where our link workers come in. The focus is not on the clinical with this, and instead is centred around emotional worries, financial stresses, housing issues and transport links that come with a cancer diagnosis. This importance is on providing a friendly face who can offer support to the community Social Prescribing know best.

“All link works are trained and can feedback any issues or concerns to the GP where appropriate. It relieves the pressure away from clinicians and primary care, allowing them to continue their tireless work. There is only two of these workers at the moment, in Sheffield, but we’re looking forward to expanding this further.

“The feedback on this pilot has been amazing, and we’re keen to continue this approach across Sheffield. Patients and their wellbeing are our top priority, and we hope to see this programme develop not just in Sheffield, but more widely.”

Patients will be referred to a link worker by their GP practices when they have been discharged from hospital.

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